The goal of providing life-saving HIV treatment to 15 million people by the end of 2015 has been met nine months ahead of schedule, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said in a report released on Tuesday.
This means that the world is on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, UNAIDS said.
“The world has delivered on halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “Now we must commit to ending the AIDS epidemic as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
New HIV infections have fallen by 35 percent and AIDS-related deaths by 41 percent, according to the report.
The global response to HIV has averted 30 million new HIV infections and 7.8 million AIDS-related deaths since 2000, when the targets under the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 were set.
“Fifteen years ago there was a conspiracy of silence. AIDS was a disease of the ‘others’ and treatment was for the rich and not for the poor,” UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé said. “We proved them wrong, and today we have 15 million people on treatment—15 million success stories.”
Between 2000 and 2014, new HIV infections dropped from 3.1 million to 2 million, a reduction of 35 percent.
Had the world stood back to watch the epidemic unfold, the annual number of new HIV infections is likely to have risen to around six million by 2014, the report said.
As of last year, 83 countries, which account for 83 percent of all people living with HIV, have halted or reversed their epidemics, including countries with major epidemics, such as India, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Stopping new HIV infections among children has been one of the most remarkable successes in the AIDS response.
In 2000, around 520,000 children became newly infected with HIV. In the absence of antiretroviral therapy, children were dying in large numbers.
But between 2000 and 2014, as a result of unprecedented global response, the percentage of pregnant women living with HIV with access to antiretroviral therapy rose to 73 percent and new HIV infections among children dropped by 58 percent, the report said.
By 2014, UNAIDS estimates that 85 countries had less than 50 new HIV infections among children per year, and in 2015 Cuba became the first country to be certified by the World Health Organization as having eliminated new HIV infections among children.
The pace of antiretroviral therapy scale-up increased, ensuring more people remained alive and well. By 2005, AIDS-related deaths began to reverse, falling by 41 percent from 2005 to 2014.
In 2000, fewer than 1 percent of people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries had access to treatment because the price of medicines—around US$10,000 per person per year—was unaffordable for them.
But as of last year, as a result of advocacy, political will, science and cooperation of pharmaceutical companies, the price of medicines for HIV dropped 99 percent to around US$100 per person per yearm, the report said.
In 2014, 40 percent of all people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy, a 22-fold increase over the past 14 years.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 10.7 million people had access, 6.5 million (61 percent) of whom were women.
Ensuring treatment for 15 million people around the world proves that treatment can be scaled up even in resource-poor settings, UNAIDS said.
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