UN Warns Fight Against HIV/AIDS Epidemic Has Stalled

A decrease in resources, plus a disparity in access to prevention and care are impeding the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

The United Nations has warned the global fight against HIV/AIDS has stalled, due to factors such as decreased investments to fight the epidemic, inequality in access to care, and infection rates increasing in some parts of the world, especially among certain populations.

“We urgently need increased political leadership to end AIDS,” said Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS Executive Director, a.i. in a statement. “This starts with investing adequately and smartly and by looking at what’s making some countries so successful. Ending AIDS is possible if we focus on people, not diseases, create road maps for the people and locations being left behind, and take a human rights-based approach to reach people most affected by HIV.”

According to a new report by UNAIDS, over half of all new HIV infections last year were among sex workers, injection drug users, men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, prisoners, and the sexual partners of those groups.

Globally, around 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV last year, a 16% decline since 2010, the report said. That has been driven primarily by progress across eastern and southern Africa, but there is a long way to go there as well, the report stressed. There has also been “worrying increases in new HIV infections in eastern Europe and central Asia (29%), in the Middle East and North Africa (10%), and in Latin America (7%),” the statement noted.

“We know that criminalization, [the] overuse of criminal laws, which are supposed to protect us and not violate our rights, are problematic. Because they prevent people from accessing HIV testing [and] treatment, or retaining or staying within treatment,” said Luisa Cabal, UNAIDS Director a.i. of Community Support, Social Justice, and Inclusion, in a video released Thursday.

In addition to criminalization, a growing funding gap is blamed for stalling progress on the fight against HIV/AIDS.

For the first time, the global resources for the fight declined significantly, by almost $1 billion.

“There was mainly a decrease from the second largest donor, which is the United Kingdom, which decreased by 30%,” said Jose Antonio Izazola of UNAIDS, in a video on tracking the resources and financing.

“There were other countries which also reduced their contributions…but some other countries increased [their contributions], mainly the Nordic countries,” he continued. “But when there are sufficient resources, we have sufficient results.”

UNAIDS said $26.2 billion will be needed by 2020 for the fight against the epidemic, which is $7.2 billion more than was available for the AIDS response in 2018.

Journalist, editor, and artist.