A new report out this morning from UNAIDS paints a mixed picture on the progress we’ve made in the fight against AIDS. We’ve added nearly 1.4 million HIV-positive people to treatment in the last year—an incredible feat that feels even more significant with the new understanding that treatment also serves as prevention in as many as 96 percent of cases. We’ve also learned that in 22 sub-Saharan countries, HIV incidence declined by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2009 — including in some of the world’s largest epidemics. Some countries such as Botswana, Rwanda, and Namibia have achieved Universal Access to treatment (80 percent or greater coverage), and Zambia and Swaziland are close behind. There are real success stories on AIDS coming out of the African continent that we should be sharing widely.
Unfortunately, this new report also shows that we are not doing enough (or well enough) on prevention. Last year, the number of new HIV infections globally held relatively flat at 2.7 million; new infections in sub-Saharan Africa rose slightly from 1.8 to 1.9 million; and the percentage of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving improved treatment regimens to prevent transmission to their babies hovers at 48 percent. This is unacceptable. We will not be able to bend the curve of the pandemic and see the beginning of the end of AIDS without significant reductions in new infections, both in children and in adults.
Data can sometimes be dry, but this type of update should motivate us to act and to ask our leaders to do more. With World AIDS Day less than two weeks away, the time is now. We know that the White House is in the final stages of considering what they will say on December 1st, and they need to know that you are paying attention and want to see real leadership from them.
If you can find 2 minutes in your day today, please call the White House. Ask them for a bold, new plan on global AIDS this World AIDS Day — a plan that will increase the number of people on treatment, support the Global Fund, drastically reduce new HIV infections, and ensure that no child is needlessly born with HIV. If the White House can deliver this plan, and if other countries can step up in tandem, we feel confident that we can achieve the beginning of the end of AIDS together.