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Global fight against HIV ‘under threat’ amid resource scarcity, says UN – International News News – Report by AFR

The global fight against HIV has stalled due to shrinking resources due to Covid-19 and other crises, according to a new report presented at the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada.

Globally, new HIV infections fell by just 3.6 percent between 2020 and 2021, the smallest annual decline since 2016, according to the UNAIDS report titled “In Danger”.

Around 1.5 million new infections occurred last year – more than a million above global targets for fighting the virus.

“The response to the AIDS pandemic has been derailed by global crises from the colliding pandemics of HIV and Covid to the war in Ukraine and the resulting global economic crisis,” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, told reporters.

In Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America, new infections increased in line with trends over several years.

Asia and the Pacific edged up slightly, defying earlier declines.

Bright spots were West and Central Africa – the latter mainly driven by Nigeria – and the Caribbean.

“Covid-19 and other instabilities have disrupted health services in much of the world and millions of students have dropped out of school, increasing their vulnerability to HIV,” the report said.

In 2021, 38.4 million people were living with HIV worldwide, with 650,000 dying from AIDS-related diseases.

Young women and adolescent girls were disproportionately affected, with a new infection occurring every two minutes in this population.

Sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for the majority of new infections — 59 percent in 2021 — but that proportion is falling as the decline in new infections slows in the rest of the world.

– Fatigue and Ukraine War –

The report comes as high-income countries cut aid.

In 2021, international resources available for HIV were six percent lower than in 2010, with United States bilateral aid falling by 57 percent over the past decade.

The United Nations says HIV response in low- and middle-income countries is $8 billion below the amount needed by 2025.

Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease official, said he was concerned that HIV fatigue was hampering resource allocation.

“When you have the disease that we’ve dealt with as a community for over 40 years, even that alone is a tough sell to keep the enthusiasm going,” he said.

With Covid and monkeypox thrown in, “people are exhausted by epidemics and pandemics, so I think our challenge is that we have to fight doubly hard to get HIV back on the radar screen,” he added.

Andriy Klepikov, executive director of the Alliance for Public Health, an AIDS advocacy group in Ukraine, called for special attention to his country in the face of the Russian invasion.

“Over 100,000 people living with HIV are actually living in areas directly affected by war,” he said, emphasizing the need for more funding from the United States’ PEPFAR program for HIV and from UNAIDS.

– racial differences –

Seventy percent of cases worldwide have been reported in key groups: sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and transgender people.

The report also drew attention to racial inequality as an exacerbation of HIV risks.

In the United Kingdom and the United States, blacks are lagging behind whites in the decline in new infections. In Australia, Canada and the United States, HIV incidence rates are higher in Indigenous communities.

The report also showed that access to life-saving treatments is faltering and growing at the slowest rate in over a decade.

Three quarters of all people living with HIV have had access to antiretroviral treatment, but 10 million people do not have access.

The rate of new infections worldwide has been declining since its peak in the mid-1990s, but there is still work to be done to meet the global goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

“We can end AIDS by 2030, but the curve will not bend by itself,” Byanyima said, urging countries to heed the call to action.

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