WASHINGTON (Jan. 29, 2019) For nearly three years, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has been calling on the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) to validate the global number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), which purportedly stands at 21.7 million as of 2017. UNAIDS finally begun the review process in 2018 by examining medical records across Lesotho, according to the agency’s recent press release.
“AHF is pleased to see that ART audits are taking place in Africa—and hopefully soon around the world,” said AHF Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy Terri Ford. “We have felt strongly that real, verifiable data is very important, and that is why we have been persistently calling on UNAIDS to carry out independent audits. To effectively fight and end HIV/AIDS, we must clearly see the problem and strategize accordingly. You can’t do that with inflated or inaccurate numbers. We need to know the real number of people who are still not accessing ART – which looks to be 15 million – so that we can Test & Treat and save their lives as fast as possible”.
UNAIDS is the global custodian of HIV/AIDS-related data, which has far-reaching implications for many aspects of the worldwide response to the epidemic, from tracking effectiveness of clinical interventions to shaping policy and funding decisions.
Treatment data are reported to UNAIDS by the UN member states, however the reporting process can become politicized because certain countries do not want to reveal their poor performance, or they lack reliable epidemiological monitoring systems that can provide verifiable data.
“With the majority of people in the world on ART being in Africa, it is important to really know what we are facing on the continent,” said AHF Africa Bureau Chief Dr. Penninah Iutung. “We at AHF always seek truth in the data so that we can effectively tackle the problem. We applaud the Lesotho Ministry of Health and their teams for taking on the audit and urge other countries to also take on verifying their treatment numbers.”
In Lesotho, UNAIDS says the number of people receiving ART has been underreported to the Ministry of Health by 3%. While this is an encouraging result, if UNAIDS continues the validation exercise, it might face much bigger challenges in ascertaining the veracity of data reported by powerful countries such as China, India and Nigeria. Despite potential pushback, and with a leadership transition looming at UNAIDS, it must take a strong stance toward data accuracy to buttress its credibility in the eyes of its constituents and donors.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over one million clients in 43 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare