We're Losing Ground in War on AIDS: UN

Ending epidemic by 2030 now seen as unrealistic
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2016 6:57 AM CDT
We're Losing Ground in War on AIDS: UN
Civil rights activists march in Durban at the start of the 21st World Aids Conference.    (AP Photo)

(Newser) – AIDS isn't a wounded enemy on the brink of defeat, it "is still one of the biggest killers in the world" and the target of ending the epidemic by 2030 now looks completely unrealistic, warns the chief of the United Nations program on HIV and AIDS. Former UNAIDS director Peter Piot tells the Guardian that "it is as if we're rowing in a boat with a big hole and we are just trying to take the water out. We're in a big crisis with this continuing number of infections and that’s not a matter of just doing a few interventions." There are still almost 2 million new infections every year—60% of them among women and girls—and the HIV virus is becoming resistant to drugs currently used to keep infected people healthy, leaving expensive new drug combinations as the only alternative.

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"We will not end HIV as an epidemic just by medical means," warns Piot, who notes that many African girls are infected by much older men and that gay men still face severe discrimination in many countries. “People are not robots. Sex happens in a context. It is about power," he says. RFI reports that out of around 37 million people infected worldwide, only around 17 million are receiving any kind of treatment, meaning that the AIDS death toll, which has been holding steady at around 1.5 million a year, could start rising again. Piot and other experts say progress—and, someday, victory—is still possible, but the fight has been slowed down by a shortage of funding, which has been partly because donor countries no longer see the epidemic as a major or urgent problem. (In the US, there are "stark differences" between the infection rates of different groups.)

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