AHF Sounds Alarm Over Latest UNAIDS Data
WASHINGTON (July 21 2019) In light of a worrisome funding update and the recent release of the 2018 global HIV/AIDS statistics by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is sounding the alarm on the crisis by calling for increased data accuracy measures and an urgent recommitment to fully funding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Two of the most critical assets in a robust HIV/AIDS response are data and funding—without either, the response will fall short of ending the epidemic and millions more people will continue to die from a disease that is treatable and preventable. Unfortunately, the recent revelation by UNAIDS of a $1 billion shortfall in global AIDS funding underscores the fragility of progress that has been achieved to date.
“UNAIDS claims 79% of people living with HIV know their status. AHF tested nearly 5 million people last year and we have serious doubts about the accuracy of this figure. What we are seeing on the ground doesn’t correspond to what UNAIDS is printing in their reports,” said Denys Nazarov, AHF Director of Global Policy and Communications. “The world is off track on commitments to reduce new infections and AIDS-related deaths, funding is going down, basic HIV prevention has been neglected – overly-optimistic rhetoric about the end of AIDS, paired with inaccurate data, is truly dangerous.”
The latest UNAIDS report puts the number of people on antiretroviral therapy at 23.3 million, with the range of uncertainty of +/- 3.8 million. The range of uncertainty for estimates of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths is similarly large. Since countries voluntarily report HIV/AIDS data to UNAIDS, the uncertainty about the accuracy of this data is particularly acute in instances where it might reveal an unfavorable epidemiological picture, particularly in countries that do not extensively rely on donor funding for the AIDS response.
“On the treatment numbers, we’ve been questioning UNAIDS estimates for several years now. There is a lack of transparency about the datasets used to derive them and it’s not clear whether the treatment figures are cumulative – an uncertainty of several million people is definitely unsettling, especially when it comes to public health,” said Terri Ford, AHF Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy. “Ending AIDS starts with accurate data and money to continue testing and treating those who are HIV positive and need help. It’s time for wealthy countries to put their money where their mouths are by being generous and giving the Global Fund what it needs to do its lifesaving work.”
As we are faced with daunting 2018 HIV/AIDS statistics and approach the next Global Fund Replenishment in October, AHF urges donors and government agencies to not be complacent by accepting the status quo—and to instead relentlessly push forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Resolute leadership coupled with adequate funding and accurate data will give the world a good chance to preserve current progress in the fight against AIDS and save more lives going forward.