2 million more on HIV treatment in 2015

31 May 2016
A man holding some pills

At least two million more people were accessing HIV treatment globally in 2015 than a year earlier, according to new data from UNAIDS. In total 17 million people were on HIV treatment, up by a third since 2013. However, these positive gains in antiretroviral treatment (ART) access have been undermined by a lack of progress in curbing new HIV infections.

The data was released in a new UNAIDS report, Global AIDS update 2016, published in advance of the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS taking place next week (8-10 June).

Eastern and southern Africa made the greatest gains in getting people on HIV treatment, following the November announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) recommending HIV treatment for all, regardless of their CD4 count. Here, ART coverage increased from 24% in 2010, to 54% in 2015. The global scale-up of ART from 2010 to 2015 has reduced AIDS-related deaths from 1.5 million to 1.1 million.

Yet the gains in prevention have not been as pronounced. Eastern and southern Africa led the way in reducing new HIV infections, falling by 4% over the five-year period. The rest of the world reported relatively unchanged numbers of new infections, with the alarming exception of Eastern Europe and central Asia where new HIV infections increased by 54%.

The report calls on countries to scale-up prevention efforts alongside treatment coverage, particularly for key affected populations.

In sub-Saharan Africa, young adolescent girls aged 15 to 24 are most vulnerable – accounting for 25% of all adult HIV infections in the region.

In central Asia, Europe, North America, the Middle East and North Africa, 90% of all new HIV infections occurred among gay and other men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said in a press release: “We need a people-centred response to the AIDS epidemic that removes all obstacles in the path of people’s access to HIV prevention and treatment services… These services must be fully funded and appropriate to people’s needs so that we can end the AIDS epidemic for everybody.” 

The report also shows that in countries where the Fast-Track approach has been adopted it has worked. The Fast-Track treatment target calls on 90% of all people living with HIV to be aware of their status; 90% of all people to be on treatment; and 90% of all people on treatment to have a suppressed viral load. If these goals are met by 2020 – the world will be on track to end AIDS as a global public health threat by 2030.

Cleopa Mailu, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health said: “We must catalyse investments across different sectors, with a focus on cost-effective and socially inclusive programmes, if we are to succeed.”

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