MONTREAL, Canada – Some 650,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses last year, one every minute, and while that number is slightly lower than in 2022, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) warned that the fight against the scourge is weakening.
UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima of Uganda said, “The new data is terrifying. Progress has been hesitant, resources have shrunk and inequalities have increased”, as in some parts of the world the numbers were higher than the previous year.
“Insufficient investment and action puts us all at risk: we face millions of deaths and millions of new infections if we continue on our current trajectory,” Byanyima said.
Precisely”In danger“(In Danger) titled UNAIDS the report presented on the eve of the 24th International AIDS Conference, which begins this Friday 29 in person and virtually in this city.
One and a half million people contracted the human immunodeficiency virus in 2021 and at the end of the year 38.4 million were living with HIV.
The study notes that the covid-19 pandemic and other global crises have weakened progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the decrease of only 3.6% in new infections, between 2020 and 2021, was the smallest annual decline since 2016.
This decline is also uneven across regions, with Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America all seeing rising infections for several years.
In Latin America, there are 2.2 million people living with HIV, and in 2021 new infections were 110,000 and AIDS-related deaths were 29,000.
In Asia and the Pacific, the world’s most populous region, new infections are rising in corners where they had begun to decline, and in eastern and southern Africa the rapid gains of previous years have slowed in 2021.
The countries with the largest increase in new infections since 2015 are Congo, the Philippines, Madagascar and South Sudan, while India, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania have recorded significant reductions in the number of infections.
“The new data is terrifying. Progress is running out of steam, resources are shrinking and inequalities are widening. Insufficient investment and action puts us all at risk: we face millions of deaths and millions of new infections if we continue on the current trajectory” – Winnie Byanyima.
Among the positive data, UNAIDS has noted notable declines in new infections in West and Central Africa and the Caribbean, but even in these regions the HIV response is threatened by reduced resources.
The data “shows that the global AIDS response is under serious threat. The fact that we are not making rapid progress means that we are losing ground as the pandemic grows taking advantage of covid-19, mass displacement and other crises,” Byanyima stressed.
The report indicates that women and adolescents are the population group most affected by infections in 2021, with a new infection every two minutes.
The growth of HIV among young African women and girls has coincided with the disruption of HIV treatment and prevention services, with millions of girls out of school due to the pandemic, and rising teenage pregnancies, as well as gender-based violence.
Adolescent girls and young women are three times more likely to be infected in sub-Saharan Africa than adolescents and young men.
The report also shows that access to antiretroviral treatment for all people living with HIV is failing, increasing more slowly in 2021 than in a decade.
Although three quarters of all people living with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment, there are still ten million people who do not have access to it, and only 52% of the 1.7 million children living with disease have access to life-saving drugs. .
Mary Mahy, head of statistics for UNAIDS, reported that “in 2021, there were 160,000 infections among children, and 75,000 of these were due to the mother not having access to necessary therapy during pregnancy or lactation”.
If the current rate continues, the number of new infections per year will exceed 1.2 million in 2025, when United Nations member states have set a target of fewer than 370,000 new infections.
In addition, many high-income countries are reducing their aid. The international resources available for HIV last year, $21.4 billion, were 6% lower than in 2010.
Development assistance for HIV from bilateral donors, excluding the United States, has fallen by 57% over the past decade. The HIV response in low- and middle-income countries is $8 billion short of the amount needed by 2025.
In Montreal, it was also announced that, in an effort to further facilitate access to diagnostic tests, the World Health Organization (WHO) has prequalified a home test that will cost just one dollar and will be available to the public sector in low- and middle-income countries.
“We can end AIDS by 2030 as we promised,” Byanyima said, “but it takes courage.”