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AIDS: are we winning the fight?

Saadia Iqbal's picture

December 1 is World AIDS Day—a day to take stock on where we stand in the fight against HIV/AIDS, recognize achievements, and plan for even greater achievements. This year, there is some good news to celebrate the day with! According to the latest update from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS):

  • At least 56 countries have either stabilized or achieved significant declines in rates of new HIV infections, including 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the five countries with the largest epidemics in the region, four countries—Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe—have reduced rates of new HIV infections by more than 25%, while Nigeria’s epidemic has stabilized.
  • Globally, new HIV infections have fallen by nearly 20% in the last 10 years, AIDS-related deaths are down by nearly 20% in the last five years, and the total number of people living with HIV is stabilizing.
  • Among young people in 15 of the most severely affected countries, the rate of new HIV infections has fallen by more than 25%, mostly because they are adopting safer sexual practices.
  • Condom use and availability have increased significantly around the world.
  • More people are living longer and AIDS-related deaths are declining as access to treatment has expanded. The total number of people on treatment increased by seven and half times over the last five years with 5.2 million people accessing life-saving drugs in 2009, compared to 700,000 in 2004.
  • More countries are using effective treatment regimens to prevent HIV transmission to babies and the total number of children born with HIV has decreased.

However, there are still some sobering facts too:

  • New infections outpace treatment: there are two new HIV infections for every one person starting HIV treatment.
  • There is not enough investment in HIV prevention. HIV prevention investments comprise about 22% of all AIDS-related spending in low- and middle-income countries. 
  • Globally, funding for the AIDS response falls about US$ 10 billion short of what is needed, and funding from international sources appears to be reducing.
  • Human rights are part of AIDS strategies but not fully implemented. Punitive laws continue to hamper access to AIDS-related services—79 countries worldwide criminalize same sex relations and six apply the death penalty. In the Asia-Pacific region, 90% of countries have laws which obstruct the rights of people living with HIV.

As Human Rights Day approaches on December 15, it’s worth reflecting on the important overlap between these two issues. As the UNAIDS report mentions, the rights of AIDS victims are increasingly being taken into account around the world, but there is still room for improvement. How are things in your country? Is this something people acknowledge and talk about, or is not really discussed? What are your views?