United Nations, July 7 (IANS) The global HIV targets for 2020 will not be reached due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly unequal pace between countries, said a UNAIDS report.
Missed targets have resulted in 3.5 million more HIV infections and 820,000 more AIDS-related deaths since 2015 than if the world was on track to meet the 2020 targets, Xinhua news agency quoted the report “Global AIDS Update 2020–Seizing the Moment”, as saying on Monday.
In 2019, 1.7 million people acquired HIV, and 690,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses.
Globally 38 million people were living with HIV, said the report.
In 2016, UN member states endorsed the target of reducing both AIDS-related death and new HIV infections to fewer than 500,000 by 2020.
The latest data, however, showed that the global response is coming up short, and the 2020 goal will be missed.
The report said that different regions are progressing unevenly. For example, the number of newly-infected people has reduced by 38 per cent in eastern and southern Africa since 2010.
Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in stark contrast, has seen a 72 per cent increase in new HIV infections in the past 10 years. Similarly, new HIV infections have risen by 22 per cent in the Middle East and North Africa, and by 21 per cent in Latin America.
“Saving lives of COVID-19 should not come at the expense of lives from other threats,” the report urged, as the pandemic has severely disrupted the AIDS response.
If the HIV treatment was completely disrupted for six months, 500,000 additional deaths will occur in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year, the report said.
Although anti-retroviral therapy has saved millions of lives, 12.6 million of the 38 million people living with HIV have no access to such treatment, as stigma and discrimination, together with social inequality and exclusion are the key barriers.
UNAIDS is, therefore, urging countries to increase investment as the funding gap for HIV responses is widening.
At the end of 2019, $18.6 billion were available in low- and middle-income countries to fight against HIV, almost $1.3 billion less than in 2017.
UNAIDS estimates that $26.2 billion will be needed in 2020.