AHF Cheers World’s ‘Astounding’ Feat: 15 Million on AIDS Treatment

In Global, Mozambique, News, Zimbabwe by AHF

UNAIDS reports today that the world has reached the goal of 15 million people on life-saving HIV/AIDS treatment worldwide by 2015—nine months ahead of schedule.

A separate Kaiser/UNAIDS study today shows overall donor government funding for the AIDS response increased only slightly in 2014—1% after adjusting for inflation and exchange rates—and that seven of 14 donor governments actually decreased funding. AHF notes that placing the next five million on treatment by 2020 will require a new commitment, and that the US now lags the rest of the world in ART coverage.

WASHINGTON (July 14, 2015) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which provides HIV/AIDS medical care and treatment to more than 438,000 people in 36 countries, cheered a statement released earlier today by UNAIDS reporting that the world has reached the goal of 15 million people on lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment worldwide by 2015—nine months ahead of schedule. The number now exceeds the AIDS treatment targets set forth in UN’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6.

However, AHF notes that a separate Kaiser/UNAIDS study also released today showed that overall donor government funding for the AIDS response increased only slightly in 2014—approximately 1% after adjusting for inflation and exchange rates—and that seven of 14 donor governments (Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Sweden, and the European Commission) actually decreased funding. According to the funding report, “The U.S. government remained the largest donor government to HIV in the world but funding remained essentially flat, totaling US$5.6 billion in 2014, as it did in 2013.” 

“Reaching 15 million on treatment is an astounding human accomplishment. We are so proud to be part of the largest global lifesaving movement in history,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “However, there is still so much work to do: still 1.5 million deaths and 2.5 million new infections per year; millions who don’t know they are positive; and 20 million who are not yet treated. Shockingly, the United States, the wealthiest country on the globe, has a smaller percentage of people with HIV being treated than the world as whole.”

According to today’s report, there are 36.9 million people worldwide who are living with HIV/AIDS. According to the AIDS.gov website, “Of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV in 2011, CDC data showed that 40% were engaged in HIV medical care, 37% were prescribed ART, and 30% had achieved viral suppression. In other words, only 3 out of 10 people living with HIV had the virus under control.”

Today’s UNAIDS treatment report also noted, “In 2014, the report shows that 83 countries, which account for 83% of all people living with HIV, have halted or reversed their epidemics, including countries with major epidemics, such as India, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.” 

“We are certainly grateful that India was recognized by UNAIDS as one of the success stories turning back the tide of HIV and AIDS, and India has indeed made real progress; however, this news from India is based only on the data that are currently available there,” said Dr. Ratna Devi, India Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “This is somewhat misleading because so few people in India have actually been tested for HIV. In addition, we are behind on our ‘Test and Treat’ goals, which will also help reduce new infections. Nevertheless 15 million on treatment—and nine months ahead of schedule—is an accomplishment to be truly celebrated.” 

On the African continent, the UNAIDS treatment report noted, “South Africa turned around its decline in life expectancy within 10 years, rising from 51 years in 2005 to 61 by the end of 2014, on the back a massive increase in access to antiretroviral therapy. South Africa has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world, with more than 3.1 million people on antiretroviral therapy, funded almost entirely from domestic sources. In the last five years alone, AIDS-related deaths have declined by 58% in South Africa.”

“There are many good things in this report today that are true and need to be acknowledged and celebrated, particularly in Africa, but we must be cautious about holding too optimistic a view, as there is still much work to be done,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung Amor, Africa Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Only about fifty percent of those living with HIV worldwide today know their status. In order to achieve global AIDS control and halt the spread of the virus we need a radical overhaul of how we approach HIV testing, linkage and treatment access around the world.”

“Surprisingly, countries that have better performance in terms of antiretroviral treatment (ART) coverage rates are not necessarily the most economically developed ones; so for example we have the fact that the coverage rate in the United States is lower than countries such as Botswana, Cambodia or Rwanda; and countries like Russia and Indonesia have some of the lowest ART coverage rates in the world, much lower than most of sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Global Public Health Ambassador for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “This is a clear message to big donors and a warning about the trend of the current international aid—which is to exclude countries classified as middle income by the World Bank—as if it were assumed that economic development automatically brings a better response to the HIV epidemic.”

“Placing the next five million on treatment by the year 2020, as AHF has been spearheading in the ambitious ‘20X20’ campaign, will require a redoubling of efforts and a new commitment of effort and funding across the globe, said Terri Ford, chief of global policy & advocacy for AHF. “Massive—and innovative—scale up of testing and linkage to care and treatment must now be the order of the day in the U.S. as well as around the world.”

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