Coun­tries com­mit to dou­ble AIDS treat­ment

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

UNITED NA­TIONS — Coun­tries com­mit­ted to nearly dou­bling the num­ber of peo­ple who re­ceive life-sav­ing HIV treat­ment over the next five years as a high-level United Na­tions (UN) con­fer­ence de­voted to end­ing the AIDS epi­demic by 2030 drew to a close on Fri­day last week.

Dur­ing the three-day-long meet­ing, coun­tries also saw the UN’S 193-mem­ber states com­mit for the first time to mon­i­tor­ing the qual­ity of treat­ment, with a goal of get­ting 90 per­cent of those re­ceiv­ing anti-retro­vi­ral medicine to re­duce their vi­ral load to the point where it is un­de­tectable — some­thing that im­proves qual­ity of life and re­duces the risk of trans­mis­sion.

“It’s a par­a­digm shift. What it’s go­ing to do is put the fo­cus on qual­ity. In­stead of how many peo­ple have ac­cess to treat­ment now it’s for how many peo­ple is the treat­ment work­ing prop­erly,” said Sharo­nann Lynch, HIV & TB Pol­icy ad­viser for Medecins Sans Fron­tiers.

In 2015, there were some 36.7 mil­lion peo­ple around the world liv­ing with HIV and about 17 mil­lion of them have ac­cess to anti-retro­vi­ral med­i­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to the U.N.

At the con­fer­ence, coun­tries also com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing the num­ber of new HIV in­fec­tions to be­low 500,000 a year by 2020, down from 2.1 mil­lion in 2015 and bring­ing the num­ber of an­nual Aids-re­lated deaths to un­der half-a-mil­lion in 2020 from 1.1 mil­lion last year.

“To­day is the day that we col­lec­tively say that we will end the AIDS epi­demic by 2030,” said Gen­eral As­sem­bly Pres­i­dent Mo­gens Lykketoft. “We must pay greater at­ten­tion to equal­ity and in­clu­sion, up­hold hu­man rights and speak out against stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

The United Na­tions is now look­ing to raise $13bil­lion over the next three years in sup­port of these goals.

Con­fer­ence or­ga­niz­ers said while re­mark­able progress has been made since the last United Na­tions meet­ing on AIDS in 2011, much re­mained to be done.

“For the first time in his­tory we can say that in Africa there are more peo­ple on HIV treat­ment than there are new HIV in­fec­tions,” said UNAIDS Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Michel Sidibe.

Still, the num­ber of new HIV in­fec­tions among adults has re­mained mostly un­changed since 2010 and key pop­u­la­tions like young women, sex work­ers, pris­on­ers, gay men, trans­gen­der peo­ple and in­tra­venous drug users con­tin­ued to be left be­hind.

On Thurs­day, the US an­nounced it would start a new $100m Key Pop­u­la­tions In­vest­ment Fund, in­tended to reach these peo­ple most at risk.

“Too many lead­ers say they sup­port the end of AIDS and claim to stand with the peo­ple fac­ing the life-threat­en­ing ef­fects of big­otry and dis­crim­i­na­tion on full dis­play dur­ing this week’s ne­go­ti­a­tions. But for many gov­ern­ments these are just words they fail to take ac­tion where it counts,” Asia Rus­sell, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Health Global Ac­cess Project, said in a state­ment. “We are there­fore heart­ened to see the US gov­ern­ment pledg­ing fund­ing to di­rectly con­front the hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions that keep qual­ity, ev­i­dence based pre­ven­tion and treat­ment ser­vices from key pop­u­la­tions around the world.”

Cul­tural sen­si­tiv­i­ties con­tin­ued to be an ob­sta­cle to com­bat­ting the dis­ease, UN of­fi­cials con­ceded, and a num­ber of non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent­ing gay and trans­gen­der peo­ple were ex­cluded from at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence af­ter a num­ber of con­ser­va­tive coun­tries ob­jected to their pres­ence.

Those coun­tries also were ac­cused by many anti-aids groups of work­ing to weaken the fi­nal out­come doc­u­ment.

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