News

Despite Progress, Universal Access to HIV Medicine Still Out of Reach

Earlier today, WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS launched the report Towards universal access, the fourth report tracking progress made towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care by the end of 2010.  Significant strides have been made in the past year, particularly among the low and middle income countries:

  • 15 countries provided more than 80% of HIV-positive pregnant women with the services and medicines needed to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission;
  • 14 countries provided HIV treatment to more than 80% of HIV-positive children ;
  • Eight countries have achieved universal access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) for adults.

Despite these accomplishments, the report shows that the universal access target will not be met.  Two-thirds of those needing access to treatment are still not receiving it, and women are the most impacted by this burden.  Of the 15.7 million women living with HIV around the world, 12 million live in sub-Saharan Africa and account for 60% of estimated HIV infections in that region. 50% of women living there received HIV testing and counseling in 2009.  In Latin America, 53% of HIV positive pregnant women were provided with anti-retroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission, while in the Middle East only 3% received this vital intervention. 

 Forward momentum on providing prevention services, treatment and care to those affected by HIV should be recognized and celebrated.  However, it is critical to recognize that this fight requires continued attention, energy and resources.  One of the largest obstacles to scaling up HIV treatment is funding, particularly domestically.  UNAIDS has called for countries most affected by HIV to allocate between 0.5 and 3% of their government revenue towards fighting the epidemic.  Much work remains in order for universal access to be reached, and there are more than 33 million HIV positive people in the world who can’t afford to wait.  As Kevin Moody of the Global Network of People Living with AIDS remarked, "It's unacceptable that 7,000 people a day are dying of a chronic, treatable illness.”

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