In July 2023 UNAIDS released a report outlining a “clear path” to end AIDS and prepare for and tackle future pandemics in line with Sustainable Development Goals. This report, The Path that Ends AIDS presents data and case studies to highlight the political and financial choices that are critical to achieving “extraordinary” results.  

Although the report gives readers reasons to celebrate remarkable progress, it also highlights that AIDS claimed a life every minute in 2022. Approximately 9.2 million people still do not have access to treatment, a number that includes 660,000 children. Women and girls are “disproportionately affected”, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. A statement from UNAIDS indicates that 4,000 women and girls became infected with HIV every week in 2022, but only 42% of districts with HIV incidence over 0.3% in sub-Saharan Africa currently offer dedicated HIV prevention programmes for adolescent girls and young women.  

Facts and figures 

In 2022 an estimated: 

  • 39 million people globally were living with HIV 
  • 29.8 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy 
  • 1.3 million people became newly infected with HIV 
  • 630, 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses 
95-95-95 targets in sight 

A chosen indicator of success within the report is the “95-95-95″ target: 

  • 95% of people who are living with HIV know their status 
  • 95% of people who know they are living with HIV are on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment 
  • 95% of people who are on treatment are virally suppressed 

Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Zimbabwe have already achieved these targets, with a further 16 countries close to doing so; 8 of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, the region that accounts for 65% of all people living with HIV. 

Politics can promote progress 

The report outlines that HIV successes are anchored in strong political leadership, which, according to a UNAIDS statement follows “data, science, and evidence”. Furthermore, this strong leadership identifies and tackles inequalities, engages with communities and organisations, and ensures “sufficient and sustainable funding”.  

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, described the end of AIDS as an “opportunity for a uniquely powerful legacy for today’s leaders”.  

“They could be remembered by future generations as those who put a stop to the world’s deadliest pandemic. They could save millions of lives and protect the health of everyone. They could show what leadership can do.”  

UNAIDS states that progress has been strongest in areas with the “most financial investments”. For example, in eastern and southern Africa new HIV infections have been reduced by 57% since 2010. Increased political will and investment must address key areas such as evidence-based HIV prevention and treatment, health systems integration, non-discriminatory laws, gender equality, and empowered community networks. 

“We are hopeful, but it is not the relaxed optimism that might come if all was heading as it should be. It is, instead, a hope rooted in seeing the opportunity for success, an opportunity that is dependent on action.” 

Ms Byanyima was emphatic in her call to action: “the way is clear”. 

“The facts and figures shared in this report do not show that as a world we are already on the path, they show that we can be.”  
Working for children 

With the goal of ending AIDS among children, support and investment has contributed to the increase in pregnant or breastfeeding parents living with HIV who access antiretroviral treatment, from 46% in 2010 to 82% in 2022. This has contributed to a 58% reduction in new HIV infections among children, which UNAIDS emphasises is the lowest number since the 1980s.  

Protecting human rights 

A key paving stone in the pathway of progress has been ensuring that frameworks “enable and protect” human rights. For example, several countries removed harmful laws over the past year, including 5 that have decriminalised same-sex sexual relations. The statement suggests that infection rises are due primarily to a lack of prevention services for “marginalised and key populations” and the barriers presented by “punitive laws and social discrimination”.  

To read the full report click here. 

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