Fight against Aids losing steam

Michel Sidibe executive director of Unaids at a news conference

Complacency is starting to stall the fight against the global AIDS epidemic, with the pace of progress not matching what is needed, the United Nations warned on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

"The world is slipping off track".

"Without these resources, there is a big risk of the epidemic rebounding" and an increase in mortality, Sidibe said. However, the agency warns that "progress is slowing and time is running out to reach the 2020 HIV targets".

The number of people contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) fell by approximately 100,000 between 2016 and 2017, having remained static over the previous 12 months. AIDS deaths in 2017 were the lowest this century, at fewer than a million people, the report said.

But Sidibe also said there were now "crisis" points in preventing the spread of HIV - particularly among high-risk and vulnerable populations - and in securing sustained funding. Although this is almost half the number of new infections compared to the peak in 1996 (3.4 million), the decline is not quick enough to reach the target of fewer than 500,000 by 2020.

The reduction in new HIV infections has been strongest in the region most affected by HIV, which is eastern and southern Africa, where new HIV infections have been reduced by 30 percent since 2010.

In some, as many as half of the people interviewed said they didn't think children with HIV should attend the same schools as those without the virus.

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"Some countries continue to concern us, such as Nigeria which accounts for about half of all new infections in west Africa", said Sidibe.

"I am distressed by the fact that in 2017, 180,000 children became infected with HIV, far from the 2018 target of eliminating new HIV infections among children", he wrote. The report showed the number of people living with the immune system-attacking virus grew from 36.3 million in 2016 to 36.9 million a year ago thanks to widening access to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

"... 'We have more than 15 million people waiting for treatment". Overall, this is nearly half of the number of new infections compared to its peak in 1996 which was 3.4 million persons.

Linda-Gail Bekker, president of the International AIDS Society and lead author of the Commission's report, told The Indian Express, that current approaches to HIV control were not adequate to contain it by 2030.

"We are sounding the alarm", Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of Unaids, said. "We can not congratulate ourselves on global progress until that progress is shared by all".

In 2017, about $20.6 billion was available for AIDS programmes in low- and middle-income countries which funded about 56 percent from their own budgets, said the report. More than half of that came from domestic funding sources rather than worldwide donors.

Experts said HIV funding had remained flat in recent years, at about £14.7bn - roughly £5.4bn short of the estimated amount needed to achieve the UNAids targets.

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