If We End Inequalities, We Will End AIDS, Says UNAIDS

If We End Inequalities, We Will End AIDS, Says UNAIDS

“If we end inequalities, we will end AIDS” is the powerful message of the most recent Global AIDS Update 2021, published by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

40 years after the detection of the first AIDS cases, the agency not only updates the figures of the HIV epidemic but also compiles the lessons learned from the strategies that have been carried out around the world.

As Winnie Byanyima, Director of UNAIDS, points out in the presentation of the document, the world has learned that HIV does not affect all people in the same way, since the barriers and inequalities faced by some population groups make it more difficult for them to have access to health services that would allow them to prevent, or have adequate treatment for the infection.

“We must identify the inequalities that mainly determine who has access to the HIV services they need, who is experiencing HIV transmission, and who is dying,” Byanyima said.

The 90-90-90 Goals: Almost a Reality

Although they were classified as an “aspirational fantasy” when they were raised in 2014, the 90-90-90 targets proposed by UNAIDS were almost reached by 2020. The goals were for 90% of people with HIV to know their diagnosis, that 90% of people diagnosed would begin treatment, and that 90% of people in treatment achieved an undetectable viral load, that is, a quantity of the virus so low in their body that it is not possible to detect it with the available tests.

UNAIDS highlights that last year, 8 countries in the world with different contexts (epidemiological and socioeconomic) met the objectives. Globally, the 90-90-90 targets were very close to being achieved. 84% of people with HIV knew their diagnosis, 87% accessed antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of these people achieved an undetectable viral load.

However, this also means that just over a quarter (27%) of people with HIV are untreated, and just over a third do not have an undetectable viral load.

In contrast to care, prevention has not been as successful. New infections have declined only 31% since 2010, a far cry from the 75% target set for 2020. Latin America is one of two regions that failed to achieve any reduction in new infections over the last decade (the other is North Africa).

The HIV Epidemic Remains a Health Crisis:

  • 37.7 million people in the world are living with HIV 
  • 10.2 million of them have no treatment
  • 1.5 million people were infected in a year
  • 680,000 people died of AIDS-related causes in one year