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Over Half of HIV-Positive People in the World Are on Meds

Over Half of HIV-Positive People in the World Are on Meds

For the first time, most people living with HIV are on treatment. But how long will it last in Trump's administration? 

The United Nations revealed in a report called “Ending AIDS” that for the first time, over half of people living with HIV are currently on antiretrovirals. And as a result of the growing access to care, AIDS related deaths are now half of what they were in 2015. 

While these numbers are great to see, some experts are wondering why we haven’t reached this milestone sooner, seeing how the world has spent billions of dollars in HIV research, education, and prevention measures. 

“When you think about the money that’s been spent on AIDS, it could have been better,” senior lecturer in global health politics at Queen Mary University in London, Sophie Harman, said to the Associated Press. “The real test will come in five to 10 years once the funding goes down.” 

Harman is referring to the Trump administration’s proposed 31 percent cut in U.N. contributions, which will undermine its “90-90-90” strategy, which hopes to have 90 percent of the population know their status, 90 percent of HIV-positive people on meds, and 90 percent of HIV-positive people with undetectable viral loads. 

If the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts on programs supplying drugs to the nearly 11.5 million people worldwide who can’t afford them, researchers say at least one million people will die in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, reports The New York Times. 

According to the UNAIDS report, 36.7 million people were living with HIV in the world, and of that number nearly 19.7 million were on meds. In 2015, there were 36.1 million living with HIV, with 17.1 on meds.

While the number of people living with the virus increased by 600,000, the number of people on meds increased by nearly 2.6 million. UNAIDS executive director Michael Sidibe credits the rise to number of countries starting to treat the virus as early as possible, which is said to keep people healthy longer while preventing new infections from forming, as AP points out. 

Currently, the United States spends nearly $6 billion each year to supply meds for those across the world. And domestically, the government invests over $27 billion per year through programs like the Ryan White Program, AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, Medicaid, and Medicare, according to

Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, established by George W. Bush as an effort to end the epidemic in African countries, the country is able to fund programs and continue research. Barack Obama even expanded Pepfar, merging it with the Global Fund and other efforts to help see a decline in new HIV diagnoses. 

While optimism may be high right now, Harman says the belief that we can end HIV (like it says in the report’s title “Ending AIDS”) is a pipe dream: 

“I can see why they do it, because it’s bold and no one would ever disagree with the idea of ending AIDS, but I think we should be pragmatic,” she said to AP. “I don’t think we will ever eliminate AIDS, so it’s possible this will give people the wrong idea.”

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