Plenty more needs to be done to reduce the global number of HIV infections and improve the figures on viral suppression, says UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
Research has shown that although the number of new HIV infections globally continues to fall, the 2020 target of fewer than 500,000 new infections is unlikely to be achieved. Modelled estimates show that new infections (all ages) declined from a peak of 3.4 million in 1996 to 1.8 million in 2017 - the year for which the most recent data is available - but the 2020 goal looks out of reach.
The research has also shown that more needs to be done in terms of viral suppression. For people living with HIV to remain healthy and to prevent transmission, the HIV within their bodies needs to be suppressed to undetectable or very low levels through sustained antiretroviral therapy. In 2017, less than half of all people living with HIV were virally suppressed.
By far the biggest gap is the testing gap - in 2017, one quarter of all people living with HIV were unaware that they had the virus. A further 16% were aware of their HIV status but not on treatment, and an estimated 11% were on treatment but not virally suppressed.
Speaking at the last AIDS conference, Michael Sidibe, UNAIDS’ Executive Director, said: “At the halfway point to the 2020 targets, this is our wake-up call. Let us quicken our pace. We have come so far, but we have miles to go.
“With nearly one million AIDS-related deaths every year, what we need now in the AIDS movement is not division. What we need now in the AIDS movement is love, wisdom, compassion. And a feeling of justice for all who suffer.”
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