Arresting HIV threat by 2030 achievable

 

Namibia’s dream of becoming an industrialised nation by 2030, with only 16 years remaining, requires rapid and massive acceleration of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes with a people-centred approach.

Although eradicating HIV by 2030 sounds too ambitious, it is everybody’s dream that the spread of the virus will be contained by then.

It is my personal expectation that by then, there will be a significant decline in ill-health, stigma, deaths and number of orphans, and a significant increase in life expectancy and productivity, as the impact of HIV/AIDS diminishes.

Mathematical models suggest that by implementing existing HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention tools much more broadly worldwide, we will be able to reach an AIDS-free generation.

But in order to do that, there is a need to mobilise civil society and create political incentives for renewed leadership in order to secure global commitment to ending the pandemic within the 16-year period.

UNAIDS, in its recently released fast-track strategy titled ‘Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030 Strategy’, calls on countries ‑ especially those with high rates of HIV ‑ to provide life-saving HIV treatment and prevention services, as a matter of priority, to people most at risk of HIV infection in areas with high HIV prevalence and high density of people living with HIV in a short window of five years.

The new strategy that was presented at the recent UN General Assembly was well received by the participants, who are of the opinion that such an approach will drastically reduce the number of new HIV infections as well as AIDS-related deaths to record low levels.

If implemented, the UNAIDS strategy will avert 18 million new HIV infections and 11 million deaths by 2030.

This would have a huge impact on reducing the amount of investment needed for the AIDS response beyond 2020.

However, the UNAIDS modelling shows that if the targets for 2020 are not achieved until a decade later, costs will continue to spiral upwards.

According to the UNAIDS, new targets will focus on closing the access gap to HIV treatment and prevention by setting new targets for 2030.

These include a bold target of providing access to anti-retroviral treatment by 2020 that will enable 90 percent of people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 90 percent of people who know their status to access HIV treatment and 90 percent of people on HIV treatment to achieve viral suppression.

In addition to ensuring that no child is newly infected with HIV, a new target of reducing new adult HIV infections from 21 million in 2010 to 500 000 in 2020 and to 200 000 in 2030 is proposed.

This can be achieved by combining the potential of anti-retroviral therapy to prevent new HIV infections with other proven HIV prevention methods such as male and female condoms, harm reduction measures, voluntary medical male circumcision, sexual and reproductive health services and innovative social security programmes such as cash transfers.

Therefore; together with ambitious targets for HIV treatment and prevention, the global goal of zero discrimination needs to be reaffirmed because this is the reason why the success of the AIDS response has been enabled. 

Human rights targets are indispensable to ensure that people living with HIV do not face stigma and discrimination, marginalised populations are protected and the right to health becomes a reality.

Although the UNAIDS has reported the lowest levels of new HIV infections this decade, with decline in Aids-related deaths since the peak in 2005, as well as a drop in new HIV infections among children, we don’t need to sit back and relax because new infections might pop up somewhere, something that will send us back where we were 20 years ago.

October 2014
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