The eradication of AIDS, once seen as a far-off goal, could come in 15 years, according to a new United Nations report. While AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes it, remain a significant problem worldwide, there has been great progress in addressing the epidemic, especially delivering lifesaving medications to those in need, leading to the optimistic forecast, the report notes.
“The world has delivered on halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon upon releasing the report Tuesday. “Now we must commit to ending the AIDS epidemic as part of the sustainable development goals.”
The report from the U.N. Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS notes that the previous set of goals, known as the millennium development goals, have been met. One of these was to have 15 million people worldwide on antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2015 — a goal that was met in March, nine months early.
The annual number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen by 41 percent since its peak in 2004, the report notes. Also, the annual number of new HIV infections has fallen by 35 percent since 2000. One of the greatest advances has been in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV; the number of children infected with the virus annually has dropped 87 percent since 2000.
Still, much needs to be done. Forty-one percent of all adults with HIV were accessing treatment in 2014, up from 23 percent in 2010, but still fewer than half of those who have the virus are in treatment. Globally, there are 36.9 million people living with HIV. And a companion report from UNAIDS and the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that international funding to fight HIV and AIDS has leveled off.
However, UNAIDS officials say that concerted action over the next five years can end the epidemic in 15 years.
“If we frontload investments and fast-track our efforts over the next five years, we will end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé.
Go here to read the main report, How AIDS Changed Everything—MDG 6: 15 Years, 15 Lessons of Hope From the AIDS Response, and here for the UNAIDS-Kaiser report, Financing the Response to HIV in Low- and Middle-Income Countries.