On the Fast-Track to ending AIDS by 2030

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS (right) meets with Hon. Ummy Mwalimu, Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Seniots and Children (left). Photo| UNAIDS

 

The world is again on the cusp of making history in the AIDS response—ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. For the first time in the history of the AIDS epidemic, Africa has reached a tipping point. More Africans, and indeed, more Tanzanians, are starting HIV treatment than are being newly infected with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, the numbers of AIDS-related deaths in 2016 were 53% lower than in 2005, while new HIV infections have declined by 48% since 2000.

 

Increased access to antiretroviral medicines in 21 high-priority countries has resulted in a fall of new HIV infections among children between 2009 and 2016. In Tanzania new infections among children declines by 40% during the same period while in a number of countries including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have experienced declines of 60% or more in new HIV infections among children.

In 2016, an estimated 33 000 people died of AIDS-related illness in the United Republic of Tanzania, a twofold decline since 2010. However, these gains are fragile. Adolescent girls and young women remain vulnerable. Around 40% of all new HIV infections in Tanzania are among young people aged 15 to 24 years and 80% of these infections occur in young girls. Stigma and discrimination continues to push people into the shadows, particularly key populations most affected by HIV, preventing them from accessing life-saving services. We need an HIV prevention revolution; with young people and key populations at the centre.

In 2015, we surpassed the Millennium Development Goal of ensuring access to 15 million people living with HIV. The goal was achieved nine months ahead of schedule. Today, more than 19.5 million people are on HIV treatment globally.

The response to HIV is characterised by partnership, solidarity, innovation, social transformation, shared responsibility and global solidarity. With the support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, we have averted 10 million deaths between 2000 and 2016 globally.

The global AIDS response has pioneered integration of health services. An integrated approach to health services addresses the prevention and treatment of HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health and cervical cancer. Additionally, our focus must continue to put people at the centre to reduce inequity and ensure the right to health, human dignity and social justice within the context of the AIDS response. This approach has already produced unprecedented results.

The world has adopted a set of Fast-Track targets to be achieved by 2020, which will put countries on track to end their AIDS epidemics by 2030. To do this, we need to reduce new HIV infections from 2.2 million in 2010 to less than 500 000 in 2020, reduce AIDS-related deaths from 1.5 million in 2010 to fewer than 500 000 in 2020 and eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

AIDS is not over, but it can be. The next five years will be critical. We must work to ensure that no one is left behind by the AIDS response. The right to health and dignity must be universal, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We have to front-load and increase domestic investments and we need to act now to break the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic once and for all. We can do it. We must do it.