UNAIDS has warned in the report “In Danger”, presented at the International AIDS Conference, held in Montreal (Canada), that over the past 2 years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fight against HIV has slowed down and reduced resources, putting “millions of lives” at risk.
The number of new infections fell by just 3.6% globally between 2020 and 2021, the “smallest” annual decline in the number of new HIV infections since 2016.
Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America have all been experiencing increases in annual HIV infections for several years. In Asia and the Pacific, the world’s most populous region, UNAIDS data shows that new HIV infections are now rising in areas where they had begun to decline.
“The increase in the number of new infections in these regions is undoubtedly alarming,” UNAIDS said, noting that in eastern and southern Africa, the rapid gains of previous years have slowed significantly in 2021.
However, there is also positive evidence, noting notable declines in new HIV infections in West and Central Africa and the Caribbean, although even in these regions the HIV response is threatened by reduced resources.
“These data show that the global AIDS response is under serious threat. The lack of rapid progress means we are losing ground as the pandemic grows taking advantage of COVID-19, mass displacement and other crises. Let us always keep in mind the millions of preventable deaths we are trying to stop,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.
The faltering progress means there were around 1.5 million new infections last year, more than a million more than global targets. In this sense, the agency pointed out that “marked inequalities” at the national level and between countries are holding back progress in the response to HIV, and that HIV “further increases these inequalities”.
IMPACT OF HIV ON WOMEN AND ADOLESCENTS
New infections occurred disproportionately among young women and adolescent girls. Indeed, in 2021, a new infection occurred in this population group every two minutes.
The impact of HIV on women, especially young African girls, has occurred amid disruption of mainstream HIV prevention and treatment services, while millions of girls were out of school due to pandemics and spikes in rates of teen pregnancy and gender-based violence.
In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than adolescents and young men. During the disruptions of recent years, key populations have been particularly affected in many communities, with prevalence increasing in many places.
For example, in El Salvador, between 2019 and 2021, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men who attend HIV testing clinics nearly doubled, and even increased 8-fold among trans people.
UNAIDS data has shown insufficient progress in removing punitive laws that increase the risk of HIV infection and death for marginalized people, including LGBTI people, people who inject drugs and professionals. )s sex.
Racial disparities exponentially multiply the risk of contracting HIV. In the United Kingdom and the United States of America, the decline in new HIV diagnoses was greater among whites than among blacks.
In countries like Australia, Canada, and the United States, HIV acquisition rates are higher in Indigenous communities than in non-Indigenous communities. UNAIDS data showed an “increasing risk” of new infections among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) around the world.
In 2021, UNAIDS data on key populations shows that MSM are 28 times more likely to contract HIV than people of the same age and gender identity, while people who inject drugs are 35 times more at risk, sex workers 30 times more at risk and transgender women 14 times the risk.
The report also shows that efforts to ensure that all people living with HIV have access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment are weakening. The number of people on HIV treatment in 2021 saw the “slowest growth in more than a decade”.
And while three quarters of all people living with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment, 10 million people are still without it, and only half (52%) of children living with HIV can access it. life-saving drugs. Thus, the HIV treatment coverage gap between children and adults is widening rather than narrowing.
The report predicts devastating consequences if urgent action is not taken to address the inequalities at the root of the pandemic. It also shows that, on the current trajectory, the number of new infections per year would exceed 1.2 million by 2025, the year for which UN Member States have set a target of less than 370,000 new HIV infections. This would mean not only missing the commitment on new infections, but exceeding the number more than three times.
Millions of preventable HIV infections each year make it “increasingly difficult and costly” to ensure that people living with HIV have access to life-saving treatment and that goals are met to end the AIDS pandemic d 2030.
“Global shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, have further heightened the risks to the HIV response. Debt repayments by the world’s poorest countries have reached 171% of all health, education and social protection spending combined, stifling countries’ capacities to respond to AIDS. Domestic funding for the HIV response in low- and middle-income countries has declined for two consecutive years,” UNAIDS said.