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Minimal decline in AIDS mortality rate : 2019 Global Report on HIV

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By Ashok Ramsarup :: The 2019 Global Report on HIV has been released in Eshowe, situated in the uThungulu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. The UNAIDS Report claimed that 770 000 people died of HIV worldwide last year, only a 30 000 reduction from 2017.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases.  It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex.

International humanitarian medical non –governmental organisation – Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)  (MSF), has expressed concern following the minimal decline in mortality due to AIDS-related diseases since 2014. However, it welcomed the progress made in the HIV fight with communities at the centre.

In its reaction, MSF over the report released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), the humanitarian organization called on governments, ministries of health, non-governmental organisations and international movements to step up its gear in a bid to reduce the mortality of people living with the dreaded disease which had become a major global public health issue.

MSF said an additional two million people were reported to be on antiretroviral therapy (ART), but more needs to be done by lawmakers, medics, researchers, hospitals to confront the killer infections driving AIDS death such as tuberculosis and cryptococcal meningitis.

MSF HIV/IADS Working Group leader DR GILLES VAN CUTSEM said in MSF supported hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Malawi and elsewhere, many deaths occur within 48 hours of admission.

Dr  Van Cutsem said: “Patients arrive very ill, often with severe opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, or Kaposi’s sarcoma.  It’s too late to save them. They might not have been diagnosed on time or failed to get access to life-saving treatment.”

MSF said countries in West and Central Africa region in particular need acceleration, but there were facing a shortfall in international funding including for ART treatment scale-up.

Dr Van Cutsem said this was a sad situation and there no talk of celebration or success while hundreds of thousands continue to die of AIDS every year because they do not access basic HIV care. “ It is either because they live in countries that are neglected, because they are part of neglected population groups, or because of policies that chose to ignore them.

“Preventing, detecting and treating advanced HIV and AIDS, demands more attention and funding, especially in low coverage settings such as West and Central Africa, and in neglected populations in Africa,”  added Dr Van Cutsem.

The UN member states endorsed the goal of cutting AIDS deaths by 50% by 2020, to less than 500 000 per year.  Six months to this deadline, this target is far from being achieved.

The UNAIDS decided to launch its report in Eshowe, the first area in South Africa to achieve the UNAIDS-endorsed targets of 90-90-90. The report highlighted the findings of a MSF survey presented during the recent SA AIDS Conference 2019 which showed that the project area surpassed the UNAIDS targets, with results of 90-94-95:

  • 90% of people living with HIV know their status,
  • 94% of those were on antiretroviral treatment and,
  • 95% of those had suppressed viral load

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) work closely with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United Nations Women, International Labour Organisation (ILO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health Organisation (WHO), and the World Bank in a bid towards ending  THE AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦 

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