New HIV infection rate increased in 50 countries last year, reports UNAIDS
Due to the continuing rise in HIV infections, UNAIDS has called for countries to strengthen preventive measures and continue to improve access to treatment.
According to Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, approximately 1.8 million people were newly infected with HIV and the rate of new HIV infection increased in 50 countries last year..
Michel Sidibé commented:
“Health is a human rights imperative and we are deeply concerned about the lack of political commitment and the failure to invest in proven HIV programmes, particularly for young people and key populations. If countries think they can treat their way out of their epidemics, they are dangerously mistaken.”
A new UNAIDS report reveals that 47% of new HIV infections worldwide affect major vulnerable groups such as sex workers and injecting drug users. While a combination of HIV prevention methods can alleviate this situation, such as harm reduction; pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); better social care; and condoms, many countries are reluctant to invest in methods that they believe to be culturally or religiously inappropriate.
For example, in some Southern African countries, the proportion of sex workers with HIV infection can be up to 70%. It is reported that the police often confiscated condoms.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, injecting drug users account for one-third of new HIV infections, because the criminalisation of drug use often results in the use of unsterilized needles.
Gay men and other men who have sex with men accounted for 57% of new HIV infections in Europe and North America in and 41% in Latin America in 2017. However, HIV services for these groups are often limited by the criminalisation of homosexual acts in many countries.
Michel Sidibé added:
“If countries don’t provide comprehensive sexuality education, condoms, harm reduction or pre-exposure prophylaxis for key populations, this will ultimately translate into more new HIV infections, higher future treatment costs and a higher burden for health-care budgets and systems.”
In response to this “HIV prevention crisis” the Global AIDS Prevention Coalition was established. It includes the 25 countries which carry the highest HIV burden. Their goal is to decrease the number of new HIV infections by 75% by 2020.
According to UNAIDS, countries and cities with full investment are achieving the goal. Helsinki in Finland and San Francisco in the United States are notable examples of implementing HIV prevention policies that have resulted in a significant decline in the number of new HIV infections.
UN agencies emphasise that women and youth need targeted approaches because they are often more vulnerable, and more at risk of exposure.
Although most countries have significantly expanded their AIDS treatment programs, with 80% of HIV-infected people in some countries receiving antiretroviral therapy, many do not receive adequate diagnosis and treatment. This allows transmissions to occur before starting treatment or if treatment is interrupted.
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Image credit: Middle East Eye