According to a recent United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), countries most hit by the disease should focus more on preventing new HIV infections and granting access to health care services to newly-diagnosed patients in order to stop the epidemic from rebounding.
The report, which is a joint effort of the UNAIDS and Lancet Commission, was published Thursday on the UNAIDS website.
Professor Peter Piot, lead author of the report and co-chair of the Lancet Commission, said that we should face the “hard truths” first. He cautioned that it the current rates of HIV infections would continue, current efforts to tackle the epidemic would not be enough to prevent AIDS death rate surging within many countries by 2020.
Prof. Piot proposed a two-step plan. First, governments should expand health care access, though countries cannot “treat themselves out of the epidemic.” Second, regulators should focus on boosting prevention efforts especially among groups with high risk of HIV infection.
Recent studies had shown that HIV epidemics saw resurgence especially among homosexuals in Western Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Additionally, in Uganda new cases emerged after more than a decade of successful efforts to tackle the disease because authorities lost focus on prevention.
On the other hand, although there is undeniable progress in fighting off the disease worldwide, the UN report shows that HIV infection rates are not dropping fast enough. UN experts explain that current situation mixed with demographic growth would make the situation worse for countries as more and more people would require therapy to survive.
“We have to act now. The next five years provide a fragile window of opportunity to fast-track the response and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,”
noted Michel Sidibé, head of UNAIDS and Co-Convenor of the commission.
Mr. Sidibé also said that failing to act now may lead to “catastrophic” human and financial outcomes.
Although AIDS funding rose in many countries as people became increasingly aware of the epidemics, poorer countries are still unable to contain the disease due to lack of financial support. So, the UN called for “substantial global solidarity” in funding anti-AIDS efforts.
In order to reach the 2030 goal, countries should assign up to two percent of their GDP for HIV treatment and prevention, and at least 33 percent of health care expenditures in African countries where the disease became an epidemic, according to the report.
The UN hope that every affected country would comply with the terms, so that AIDS deaths would be significantly reduced by 2020, while mother-to-child infection would be completely eliminated by 2030.
Image Source: U.S. Department of State (official blog)