The global HIV targets for 2020 will not be reached due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly unequal pace between countries, said a UNAIDS report released on Monday.
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, according to the “Global AIDS Update 2020–Seizing the Moment.” 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 percent in eastern and southern Africa since 2010. Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in stark contrast, has seen a 72 percent increase in new HIV infections in the past 10 years.
Similarly, new HIV infections have risen by 22 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, and by 21 percent in Latin America. “Saving lives of COVID-19 should not come at the expense of lives from other threats,” the report urged, as the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the AIDS response.
People living with HIV are facing risks as health systems overwhelmed and HIV services disrupted. If the HIV treatment was completely disrupted for six months, 500,000 additional deaths would be seen in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year, the report said.
Although antiretroviral 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 U.S. dollars were available in low- and middle-income countries to fight against HIV, almost 1.3 billion dollars less than in 2017. UNAIDS estimates that 26.2 billion dollars will be needed in 2020.
The report highlighted that the world’s collective failure to achieve the 2020 HIV targets exposes systemic weakness and entrenched inequality. UNAIDS urges the international community to move forward together to end the epidemic by 2030