Tremendous Milestone in the Fight to End AIDS Globally: 15 Million People on HIV Treatment
Johanna Harvey, EGPAF
Today, the global HIV/AIDS community is celebrating a major milestone—15 million people who are living with HIV are now on treatment—exceeding the target set out by Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6: Halting and reversing the spread of HIV.
This achievement is all the more impressive considering the state of the AIDS epidemic in 2000 when the MDGs were first launched. Only 700,000 people had access to treatment and more than 520,000 children were newly infected with HIV. In the absence of treatment, children were dying in large numbers.
Today, the world is a much different place. UNAIDS reports that new HIV infections have fallen by 35% and AIDS-related deaths by 41% putting us on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 if concerted commitments continue. Since the MDGs were put forth in 2000, 30 million infections and nearly 8 million AIDS-related deaths have been averted – making the HIV global response one of the best investments in global health and development.
By ensuring that more HIV-positive pregnant women have access to effective medicines that prevent HIV transmission to their children, there are 58% fewer new HIV infections among children. Now, 73% of pregnant women have access to antiretroviral therapy. UNAIDS also estimated that 85 countries saw less than 50 new HIV infections among children per year by 2014.
EGPAF Ambassador and tireless HIV advocate Florence Ngobeni-Allen also shares her incredible story in the UNAIDS report (page 364). Florence, a mother in South Africa lost her daughter shortly after they both tested positive for HIV. Since then, she has been an inspirational voice, educating other mothers living with HIV on how to protect themselves and their children.
“More mothers than ever before can now access lifesaving medications that will ensure their babies will be born and remain HIV-free. I am so proud to be one of those of mothers,” said Florence.
Today, thanks to prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services Florence is the mother of two happy, healthy boys who are HIV-free!
“What the global HIV/AIDS community has achieved is truly extraordinary,” said Charles Lyons, EGPAF president and CEO. “We can end AIDS in children. What we need now is continued global commitments to dramatically scale up HIV treatment and prevention services and access to them, especially for women and children.”
Despite this tremendous progress, more than 220,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2014; meaning 600 children are still infected every single day. The majority of these children don’t have access to the treatment they need—only 32 percent of the 2.6 million children living with HIV had access to ART in 2014. Without treatment, half of these children will die before age 2, and 80 percent won’t live past age 5.
This number underscores the urgent need to continue to scale up HIV testing, ensure sustained access to affordable medicines, and for strong international assistance to continue. The report includes as great list for “fast-tracking” our progress toward elimination by 2030 (page 438).
The global AIDS response has demonstrated that courageous, collaborative global activism and innovative can change the course of history.
“Millions of lives have been saved and changed,” said Lyons. “Under the transformational leadership of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNAIDS, and other partners, EGPAF has reached more than 21 million women with lifesaving services that protect their health and keep their babies HIV-free. However, we have many more women and children to reach in order to end the AIDS epidemic. And we can’t do it alone. Only by accelerating our work together as a global community, with common intention and resources, will we be able to create a world where no child has AIDS.”
Read the full UNAIDS report, here.