World has 5-year window on Aids
Bolstering efforts now could turn the tide on pandemic
HE WORLD has five years to increase access to HIV treatment and prevention to end HIV as a global health threat – and prevent the pandemic from resurging.
“We have bent the trajectory of the Aids epidemic,” said the UN Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) in its global report released last night. “We have five years to break the epidemic or we risk the epidemic springing back even stronger.”
The report cautions that eliminating HIV as a global health threat does not necessarily mean the world will see no new HIV cases. Instead, ramping up the HIV response through improving access to HIV treatment and prevention for high-risk groups like sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users would safeguard recent gains in reducing new infections and Aids-related deaths.
South Africa, alongside many of its neighbours, remains one of the 30 countries responsible for about 90 percent of all new HIV infections globally.
The new report scores South Africa high on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission and on condom use among sex workers. More than 80 percent of HIV-positive expecting women access antiretrovirals (ARVs) to prevent their unborn children from contracting the virus and a similar percentage of sex workers report using condoms.
At the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society conference, South African National Aids Council chief executive Dr Fareed Abdullah revealed that recent studies found that up to
T70 percent of sex workers were living with HIV.
“For sex workers to have condoms and ARVs confiscated from them when they are arrested is a blatant violation of rights, which has a direct impact on our programming,” said Abdullah, who launched a national HIV prevention and care plan for sex workers last year.
South Africa falls short on targets to ensure that 80 percent of adults and children living with HIV are on treatment.
Globally, HIV-positive children remain neglected and are about 40 percent less likely to be on ARVs than adults. According to UNAids, Aids-related illnesses remain the largest killer of Africa’s teenagers.
South Africa also gets low marks for condom use among men who have sex with men, less than 50 percent of whom report regular condom use.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the use of ARVs in HIV-negative men who have sex with men to prevent HIV infection. While the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society has released guidelines on the use of the brand name ARV Truvada to prevent HIV infection, the drug is not yet registered for use to prevent HIV.
Reacting to the WHO’s announcement in July, the Anova Health Institute’s Dr Kevin Rebe said that would prohibit the Department of Health from rolling out Truvada for HIV prevention and called for registration of the drug to prevent HIV infection “a matter of urgency”.
UNAids says ramping up the HIV response could also mean a 17-fold return on countries’ investments in the fight. – Healthe News
TREATMENT OPTION: The Anova Health Institute has called for the urgent registration of the drug Truvada to prevent HIV infections.