UN says Aids epidemic could be under control by 2030

A UNITED Nations report has said a fall in new infections from HIV and deaths from Aids could make it possible to control the epidemic by 2030 – and eventually end it “in every region and every country”.

A Malawian woman suffering from the HIV virus is helped by a relative in her bed. Picture: Getty

A study by the UNAids programme, issued ahead of a conference in Melbourne next week, said the number of people infected with HIV was stabilising at about 35 million globally.

There were 2.1 million new cases in 2013 – 38 per cent fewer than the 3.4 million figure in 2001.

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The epidemic has killed about 39 million of the 78 million people it has affected since it began in the 1980s.

The report said ending the Aids epidemic by 2030 would mean the spread of HIV was being controlled or contained, and that the impact of the virus in societies and in people’s lives had been reduced by significant declines in ill health, stigma, deaths and the number of Aids orphans.

UNAids director Michael Sidibé wrote in the report: “The Aids epidemic can be ended in every region, every country, in every location, in every population and every community. More than ever before, there is hope that ending Aids is ­possible.

“However, a business-as-usual approach or simply sustaining the Aids response at its current pace cannot end the epidemic.”

UNAids said at the end of 2013, some 12.9 million HIV positive people had access to antiretroviral therapy – an improvement on the ten million who were on treatment one year earlier and the five million who were given Aids drugs in 2010.

Since 2001, new HIV infections have fallen by 38 per cent, the report said and Aids deaths have fallen by 35 per cent since a peak in 2005.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes Aids can be transmitted via blood, breast milk and by semen during sex, but can be kept in check with cocktails of drugs known as antiretroviral therapy or ART.

The report said: “The world has witnessed extraordinary changes in the Aids landscape. There have been more achievements in the past five years than in the preceding 23 years.” The UN report added that ending the Aids epidemic by 2030 would mean “increased life expectancy, unconditional acceptance of people’s diversity and rights, and increased productivity and reduced costs as the impact diminishes”.

According to UNAids, £11.1 billion was available from all sources for the Aids response in 2013 and the estimated annual need by 2015 is between £12.8-£14bn.

Mr Sidibé said the international community should seize the opportunity to turn the epidemic around.

He added: “We have a fragile five-year window to build on the rapid results that been made. If we accelerate all HIV scale-up by 2020, we will be on track to end the epidemic by 2030. If not, we risk significantly increasing the time it would take – adding a decade, if not more.”

He said controlling the epidemic by 2030 would avert 18 million new HIV infections and 11.2 million Aids deaths between 2013 and 2030.

However, Jennifer Cohn, medical director of the access campaign for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières, said millions of HIV positive people still do not get the drugs they needed.

She said: “Providing life-saving HIV treatment to nearly 12 million people in the ­developing world is a significant achievement, but more than half of people in need still do not have access.

“We know that early treatment helps prevent transmission of HIV and keeps people healthy. We need to respond to HIV in all contexts and make treatment accessible to everyone in need as soon as possible.”