As the world’s largest HIV/AIDS conference, AIDS 2022, is set to conclude today – amid a visa scandal that barred many advocates from the most HIV-affected countries in the Global South – AHF calls for UNAIDS and WHO to place a renewed and urgent focus on HIV testing and treatment initiation and retention. Those aspects of the HIV response are sorely lacking from the worrisome UNAIDS report released last week.
“While leaders in the global fight against HIV/AIDS have touched on some aspects of Test & Treat during the 24th International AIDS Conference, it certainly seems there’s no sense of urgency in identifying new cases and getting and keeping patients enrolled and retained in care globally,” said AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy Terri Ford. “Even though the UNAIDS report shows how much COVID-19 has harmed the HIV/AIDS response, that cannot be an excuse for neglecting proven Test & Treat initiatives, especially for communities most affected by HIV/AIDS.”
Another vital and urgent aspect of the HIV response not represented in the UNAIDS report is a focus on late presenters. Late presentation to HIV/AIDS care presents serious health concerns, such as increased transmission, high healthcare costs, increased mortality, early development of opportunistic infections, and an increased risk of resistance to ART.
According to the latest UNAIDS data, there are an estimated 38.4 million people living with HIV globally. Tragically, every year a staggering 650,000 people still die of AIDS-related causes.
Global targets for HIV/AIDS control cannot be achieved until there is a concerted effort to ensure people living with HIV enter care and treatment before their immune systems are severely weakened.