Global AIDS fight ‘in danger’ after setbacks due to COVID-19

Number of new infections dropped by only 3.6 % between 2020 and 2021, the smallest annual decline since 2016
Respect my HIV protest in London. (Photo : UN News)
Respect my HIV protest in London. (Photo : UN News)

The global fight against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has slowed down over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crunches and the war in Ukraine, according to a new report by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The number of new infections dropped by only 3.6 per cent between 2020 and 2021, the smallest annual decline since 2016, said the report published July 27, 2022.

AIDS is a leading cause of death in many countries, said the report titled In Danger, published ahead of the upcoming International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada.

Around 6,50000 AIDS-related deaths were reported last year. On average, the AIDS pandemic took one life every minute in 2021.

Eastern and southern Africa is the region carrying the largest share of the global burden of HIV and is the epicentre of the HIV epidemic, according to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

In eastern and southern Africa, rapid progress gained in the previous years significantly declined in 2021. Around 63 per cent of new infections in eastern and southern Africa in 2021 were among women and girls.

New infections are three times higher among adolescent girls and young women (aged 15 to 24 years) than among males of the same age.

Since 2010, the decline in new HIV infections has been much sharper among adolescent boys and young men (56 per cent) than among adolescent girls and young women (42 per cent).

It shows how new HIV infections are now rising in places, which had marked a substantial amount of progress earlier. These regions include the world’s most populous areas, Asia and the Pacific.

New infections have notably reduced in western and central Africa and the Caribbean. Even in these regions, the HIV response is threatened by a tightening resource crunch.

The efforts to ensure the accessibility of lifesaving antiretroviral treatment are also faltering, the report noted. At least 10 million people living with HIV, do not have any access to lifesaving medicine and only 52 per cent of children have access to it.

Only six of 21 countries in Africa provided antiretroviral therapy to children living with HIV in 2020, according to another report by UNAIDS.

There was a five per cent decrease in annual HIV resources in the eastern and southern Africa region in 2021.

The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria contributed 38 per cent and 13 per cent of regional resources, respectively. Some 40 per cent of resources were mobilised from domestic sources.

“We can end AIDS by 2030 as promised. But what it takes is courage,” said Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS executive director.

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