With Progress on HIV/AIDS, Now’s Not the Time to Stall

by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager

There’s good news in the fight against HIV/AIDS – treatment and prevention are working. People living with HIV are living longer and AIDS-related deaths are declining with access to antiretroviral therapy.

A new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that 2011 was a game-changer for AIDS response with “unprecedented progress in science, political leadership and results.” The report also shows that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic. New HIV infections were reduced by 21percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005.

In sum, treatment has averted 2.5 million deaths since 1995.

“Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response,” says Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. “We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”

According to UNAIDS and WHO estimates, 47 percent (6.6 million) of the estimated 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low- and middle-income countries were accessing lifesaving antiretroviral therapy in 2010, an increase of 1.35 million since 2009.

The 2011 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report also highlights that there are early signs that HIV treatment is having a significant impact on reducing the number of new HIV infections.

Yet, around the globe, there were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV in 2010. We must keep making progress, and U.S. international aid is one of the keys to that progress.

A new analysis by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research details the potential human impact of proposed congressional cuts to the U.S. International Affairs Budget. According to the analysis, proposed cuts to global health investments would have minimal impact on U.S. deficit reduction over nine years but would have “devastating human impacts in terms of morbidity and mortality around the world.”

An estimated cut of 11.07 percent across the board in FY13 alone would result in

  • 29,000 more infants born with HIV because of reduced funding to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programs
  • food, education and livelihood assistance not available to 419,000 children through PEPFAR (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief)
  • funding to treat 403,000 people for HIV/AIDS not available.

Those are sobering statistics to contemplate, especially coming on the heels of a year with tangible improvements in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

On World AIDS Day, let’s resolve to keep moving forward. The goals are clear:
zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

Read more about how ChildFund is helping reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and youth.

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