HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria are treatable and preventable diseases that disproportionately affect the world's poor. Sub-Saharan Africa is the hardest hit region, accounting for 90% of malaria deaths, two-thirds of all people living with HIV and nearly one-third of all TB cases. The human impact of these three diseases is undeniable, but their socioeconomic impact is also severe and measureable. In sub-Saharan Africa especially, AIDS threatens to wipe out an entire generation during its most productive years. Businesses are losing their workers, governments are losing their civil servants and families are losing not only their loved ones but also their breadwinners.
While the world has battled malaria and TB for centuries, the immense human toll of AIDS in the late 1990s injected a new urgency into the need to enhance prevention and treatment efforts. Though the resources to fight these diseases have increased exponentially in recent years, funding remains too little and too slow in coming. Moreover, weak health systems have limited success in the fight against these diseases, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The shortage of health workers, for example, is one of the biggest hurdles in expanding treatment and prevention efforts. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 24% of the global burden of disease, but only 3% of the world's health workforce. Already stretched doctors, nurses and pharmacists, as well as the systems and facilities that support them, must be strengthened to address AIDS, TB and malaria, but also to ensure better basic health outcomes overall.
New momentum in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria has helped extend effective and affordable prevention and treatment services to millions of people. Antiretroviral medication for people living with HIV/AIDS now costs approximately $220-335 per patient per year, down from nearly $10,000 only ten years ago. The four tools for malaria elimination (insecticide-treated bed nets, anti-malarial treatment, indoor residual spraying and preventative treatment for pregnant women) are also extremely affordable. For example, bed nets cost $10 to purchase and distribute, while treatment costs only $2 per dose. TB infection can be prevented and treated as well- in many endemic countries, $16-35 will buy a full six-month course of treatment which can cure TB.
Global resources devoted to fighting the three diseases have been rapidly scaled up in recent years, delivering impressive results in many sub-Saharan African countries. In Rwanda and Ethiopia, for example, a dramatic increase in the delivery of bed nets and anti-malaria treatment reduced malaria deaths by over 50% within two years. And across sub-Saharan Africa, expanded access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment has meant that an AIDS diagnosis is no longer a death sentence for millions of people. In 2011, 6.2 million sub-Saharan Africans were receiving antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS, up from only 50,000 in 2002. Some countries have achieved even more dramatic results. Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, and Zambia have achieved universal access to antiretroviral therapy by providing treatment to at least 80% of patients in need. In Benin, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Zimbabwe more than 60% of people in need of antiretroviral medication are receiving it and coverage levels are approaching the 80% target.
Treatment for TB has also become more available – 51 million cases of TB were successfully treated between 1995 and 2011.
Learn more about the continuing challenges and the new opportunities in the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.
AIDS used to be a death sentence, but now more than 8 million people are on life-saving treatment. By 2015, with the scale up of treatment and prevention for HIV, we could see the beginning of the end of AIDS. It Starts With You. Tell World Leaders to keep up the fight.
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