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28/11/2022
Perspectives

Where are we in the fight against AIDS?

The UNAIDS Global AIDS update for 2022 is out now, and the numbers paint a grim picture. Last year itself, one person succumbed every minute to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). A person a minute! In more comprehensive terms, this amounts to 650,000 AIDS-related deaths. That’s a staggering statistic, especially given the fact that the world today has more effective HIV medication than ever before. 

The world collectively pledged to end AIDS by 2030, but 8 years isn’t that far off, and by current standards, we are clearly faltering. But how, and why?

The problem of access

As per the UNAIDS 2021 figures, close to 10 million people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) do not have access to antiretroviral treatment, which is critical to prevent the progression from HIV to AIDS. Moreover, just a little over half of children living with HIV (52%) have access to medication, leaving a large gap of the children’s population vulnerable as well. 

Compounding the already prevalent issue of access is the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic pushed major chunks of the population, especially in lower- and middle-income countries, further into poverty making both diagnosis and treatment of HIV within this population a particularly difficult challenge. 

In Asia and the Pacific, the situation appears even more grim, with UNAIDS data showing that new HIV infections are rising in locations where they had previously been falling, indicating gaps in the collective response to fighting HIV/AIDS. Malaysia and Philippines are among the countries where this trend is unfortunately on the rise. Singapore, however, remains an outlier with 250 new HIV infections in 2021, the island nation’s lowest ever count in 18 years

The issue of access also impacts particularly vulnerable groups, such as gay men, sex workers, transgender people, those with drug addictions (injectables), and prisoners. 

Funding is the only way out

UNAIDS data highlights that every single day, 4,000 people get infected with HIV. As per estimates based on this trend alone, approximately 1.2 million people (newly infected) will add to the existing HIV population by 2025. Treatment figures are not catching up with the infection rates, since the number of people currently (as of end-2021) on HIV treatment only increased by 1.47 million, a substantial reduction compared to the net increases of over 2 million people in previous years.   

While measures such as spreading awareness about the risks of unsafe sexual intercourse and popularising self-testing kits to avoid stigma are welcome, additional investments are required if we are indeed to even think of ending AIDS by 2030. Reports of the Global Fund (set up to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) drying up are already making the rounds, and official assistance from bilateral donors has drastically reduced by 57%. International assistance continues to remain critical, since domestic funding is already becoming a challenge for most developing countries in the wake of recession, rising inflation, and a devastating hunger crisis. As for the time frame to act on all the above, now would be a good one. 

AIDS is a deadly disease but one that is thankfully preventable and manageable with greater awareness and access to medication. With the right strategies and policies, governments worldwide can come good on their promise to end it by 2030. For more such insights and how they may be relevant to your line of work, reach out to us on connect@blackbox.com.sg

Author: Blackbox Research Team

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