A new report released by UNAIDS on Friday ahead of World AIDS Day (December 1) states that the global HIV response was off track even before the Covid-19 outbreak and has now been set back further.
The report, ‘Prevailing against the pandemic by putting people at the centre’, said that five years after a global commitment was made to fast-track the HIV response and end AIDS by 2030, the world is off track.
Fast-Track Targets, which expire at the end of this year, will not be achieved, the report said. Thirty-eight million people are living with HIV with more than 12 million waiting for life-saving HIV treatment, according to the report.
In 2019, 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV and 6,90,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses, while agreed milestones for 2020 have been missed, the report added.
Fewer people are starting antiretroviral therapy, which is curbing increases in the total number of people living with HIV who are on treatment. An estimated 26 million people were on treatment as of mid-June, up only 2.4 per cent from an estimated 25.4 million at the end of 2019. By comparison, treatment coverage increased by an estimated 4.8 per cent between January and June 2019, the report said.
The Covid-19 pandemic is having far reaching effects on health systems and other public services, the report said. In many countries, HIV services have been disrupted and supply chains for key commodities have been stretched. Around the world, fewer people are being diagnosed with HIV and fewer living with HIV are starting HIV treatment.
In 2016, the UN General Assembly made 10 key commitments on ending AIDS to increase and front-load investment over five years to accelerate the expansion of service coverage and establish momentum to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Epidemic modelling showed that the fulfilment of these commitments would reduce new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths to around 5,00,000 per year by 2020, which is roughly a 75 per cent reduction in the incidence of HIV and of AIDS-related mortality since 2010
At the global level, none of the 10 commitments has been met, the report said. With 10 years left before the deadline for ending the epidemic, a course correction is urgently needed, the report said.
In India, the pandemic has interrupted contraceptive access for more than 25 million couples, the report said.
Poonam Muttreja, executive director of Population Foundation of India, said the diversion of health resources to respond to the pandemic has restricted access to health services, including contraceptives, and therefore put women and girls of unintended pregnancies at risk of maternal health risks and sexually-transmitted illnesses (STIs). Men, too, are likely to suffer from lack of treatment for STIs.
“In many countries, supply chains for key commodities, including contraceptives, have been stretched and disrupted – this will have life-threatening consequences for vulnerable groups such as women, girls and people living with HIV/AIDS. It is critical that governments work together to strengthen health systems and social safety nets…As the UNAIDS report highlights, putting people, especially vulnerable populations, at the centre of our health response has never been more important,” Muttreja said.
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