Is this the beginning of the end of Aids? Not quite

Saturday December 8 2012

By Special Correspondent The EastAfrican

The world is not on track to meet ambitious targets to significantly reduce sexual transmission of HIV, virtually eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and achieve universal access to treatment by 2015, according to a new report by global advocacy group ONE.

The authors of the report, The Beginning of the End? Tracking Global Commitments on Aids, note that while cases of mother-to-child transmission of HIV have fallen by 24 per cent over the past two years, just 6.6 million of the 15 million who need HIV treatment have access to it, and 2.5 million people continue to be newly infected every year.

At the same time, funding for HIV response has levelled off, limiting the growth of treatment and prevention programmes.

ONE defines “the beginning of the end of Aids” as the point at which the number of new HIV infections annually is finally surpassed by the number of people newly added to treatment annually,” the report states.

“At current rates of progress, the progression curves for these two indicators will not cross until 2022.”

According to the report, achieving the beginning of the end of Aids by the end of 2015 will require, in addition to current treatment growth rates, an additional 140,000 people to start HIV treatment annually. The world will also have to double rates of progress on prevention of new infections.

“The progress that has been achieved has been through advocacy, the leadership of people like Michel Sidibé [UNAids executive director] and increased financial contributions, most recently from developing nations,” said Miriam Were, former chairperson of Kenya’s National Aids Control Council.

Ms Were is also a member of the Champions for an HIV-free Generation, a group of former African presidents and other influential people.

“What we need now is an accelerated response to get to that intersection where the number of people on treatment is rising faster than the number of new HIV infections, this way we can get to the beginning of the end of Aids.”

The key to achieving these goals will be by increasing the money available to fight HIV — from developed, middle-income and low-income nations — and using what money is available efficiently. Also essential will be the use of new, scientifically proven HIV prevention methods.

The report notes that 2013 — when the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria is due to have its fourth replenishment and global leaders are expected to meet and discuss the future of the UN Millennium Development Goals beyond 2015 — will be a “critical test of global commitment”.