UN goals on reversing AIDS epidemic 'achieved and exceeded'

New infections are down and more people than ever have access to treatment, UNAIDS announced. With concerted efforts, the epidemic may be over by 2030.

Jose Cabezas/Reuters/File
People pose for pictures inside candles that form the shape of an HIV/AIDS awareness "Red Ribbon" during the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial in San Salvador on May 17. Thousands gather for community events around the world, every third Sunday of May, in solidarity to light candles and remember those who have been affected by HIV/AIDS, according to the organization.

The world is on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced in its latest report.

The world has “achieved and exceeded” goals of halting and reversing the spread of HIV, a UNAIDS press release said. Since the targets were set in 2000, 30 million new HIV infections and almost 8 million deaths have been avoided.

“The world has delivered on halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in the press release. “Now we must commit to ending the AIDS epidemic as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Additionally, UNAIDS announced that the goal of getting 15 million infected people on antiretroviral treatment has been met nine months ahead of schedule, as efforts have brought the price of medication down 99 percent between 2000 and 2014.

“Fifteen years ago there was a conspiracy of silence. AIDS was a disease of the ‘others’ and treatment was for the rich and not for the poor,” UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé said in the press release. “We proved them wrong, and today we have 15 million people on treatment – 15 million success stories.”

New HIV infections worldwide were reduced by 35 percent between 2000 and 2014, the report said.

“In 2014, the report shows that 83 countries, which account for 83% of all people living with HIV, have halted or reversed their epidemics, including countries with major epidemics, such as India, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe,” the press release said.

Increased access to antiretroviral therapy has helped pregnant women who are HIV-positive keep from passing the virus onto their children, doctors say. In 2014, 73 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women had access to treatment, and there were 58 percent fewer new infections among children than in 2000.

“As a mother living with HIV I did everything in my capacity to ensure my children were born HIV-free,” Abiyot Godana, case manager at the Entoto Health Center in Ethiopia, said. “Our two children are a part of an AIDS-free generation and will continue our legacy.”

Though children are seeing fewer new infections, progress in getting HIV-positive children treatment has been slower than in adults, the report said. Only about a third of children living with the disease have been diagnosed and have access to treatment.

The report emphasized the importance of getting more people tested. While three quarters of people who know they have HIV choose to pursue treatment, in 2014 just over half of HIV-positive people were aware of their status.

“In 2000, AIDS was a death sentence,” UNAIDS said in the press release. “Against incredible odds, the pace of antiretroviral therapy scale-up increased, ensuring more people remained alive and well.”

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