Ahead of World AIDS Day, UNAIDS has launched a new report showing that global access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) has risen significantly, from 685,000 people in 2000 to around 20.9 million as of June 2017.

This large scale-up access to ART is due to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) becoming more aware of their rights and strong leadership and financial commitment from governments and aid agencies.

“Many people do not remember that in 2000 there were only 90 people in South Africa on treatment,” said Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé.

“Today, South Africa has the biggest life-saving treatment programme in the world, with more than 4 million people on treatment. This is the kind of acceleration we need to encourage, sustain and replicate,” continued Sidibé.

Scientific research has shown that a PLHIV who is adhering to an effective regime of ART is up to 97% less likely to transmit HIV. As treatment access has been scaled up for pregnant women living with HIV, new HIV infections among children have also been reduced. According to UNAIDS, from 2010 to 2016 new HIV infections among children were reduced by 56% in eastern and southern Africa, the region most affected by HIV, and by 47% globally.

“In 2001, the first person in Khayelitsha started HIV treatment. Today, there are almost 42,000 people on treatment here. The success of Khayelitsha’s treatment programme is a microcosm of the massive success of South Africa’s HIV programme,” said Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

The challenges now are to ensure that the 17.1 million people in need of treatment, including 1.2 million children, can access the medicines and to put HIV prevention back at the top of public health programming, particularly in the countries in which new HIV infections are rising.

The new report from UNAIDS highlights that the people most marginalised in society and most affected by HIV are still facing major challenges in accessing health and social services.

While HIV infection rates are dropping in sub-Saharan Africa, they are rising at a rapid pace in countries that have not expanded health and HIV services to the populations most in need. For example, in eastern Europe and central Asia new HIV infections have risen by 60% since 2010 and AIDS-related deaths by 27%.

The new UNAIDS report states that to reduce new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths access has to be provided to essential health services and funding for health needs to increase. The report gives examples of how to enhance funding, including increasing the share of health spending as a proportion of national economies, making savings through efficiencies and partnering with the private sector.

The UNAIDS report can be accessed here.

For more information contact news@eHealthNews.co.za, like us on Facebook or tweet us @eHealthNewsZA.