A new report from UNAIDS shows that 7 million people are currently in HIV treatment across Africa and the death toll from AIDS is falling rapidly. The report was introduced this week at the 21st Annual African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Africa. The news also comes just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the African Union (AU), a consortium of all countries on the continent.
Though activists say it's been a 10-year battle to get antiretroviral treatments to the people that need them, since 2005, the number of people who recieve treatment has risen from under 500,000 to over 7 million people. Today, Africa accounts for 69% of HIV infected people in the world and the number of new HIV infections have dropped by a whopping 32%.
According to that same report, AU leadership has been essential in reversing the epidemic and it’s because of strong leadership and understanding of international responsibility that South Africa saw a 20% increase in the number of people receiving therapy from 2011 to 2012. Sixteen other countries in the AU also said that they had ensured that more than 75% of pregnant women living with HIV in their countries were receiving antiretroviral medicine to prevent transmission to their child.
Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé said, “Africa has been relentless in its quest to turn the AIDS epidemic around. As we celebrate 50 years of African unity, let us alone celebrate the achievements Africa has made in responding to HIV and recommit to pushing forward so that future generations can grow up free from AIDS.”
Sidibé says that moving forward the AU members need to focus more on the people, not the diseases, leveraging the strength of culture and communities, building strong health institutions, mobilizing domestic and international financial commitments, and elevating overall health. “These strategies have been fundamental to Africa’s success at halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic and will report the next 50 years of better health, across borders and across diseases," he says.
Last year African leaders adopted a response plan to improve health governance, diversify financing, and accelerate access to affordable, high quality medicines. AIDS Watch Africa is going to be reviewing the progress in these areas to measure whether national, regional, continental and global stakeholders have met their commitments at the Summit later this week.
The African Union Commission, with New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and UNAIDS, will also launch the first accountability report on the partnership between the African Union and G8 (a group of the eight wealthiest countries, including the United States). The report is going to call on AU member states and members of the G8 to exercise great leadership, particularly around access to medicines, sustainable financing, human rights and gender equality.