Since the peak of the global AIDS epidemic, the world has made impressive strides in the fight to end the disease. New data shows us that over the last year fewer people are dying from AIDS-related illnesses and millions more people are accessing treatment. But the same data also shows us that progress has slowed.
So what do we make of this? Continued progress shows us that the fight against AIDS is one we have the power to win, but AIDS is still a crisis and we need to accelerate momentum to fight the disease.
The good news is that we have the tools to do this. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is one of our most powerful resources in the fight against AIDS. Together with governments, citizens, and other international partners, the Global Fund works to prevent, treat and eliminate HIV/AIDS in the hardest hit countries.
Here are three reasons the Global Fund and its partners are stepping up the fight against AIDS, and how they’re doing it.
1) 1.7 million people contracted HIV in 2018.
While the number of people newly infected with AIDS is decreasing year over year, it’s not decreasing fast enough. We have the tools to prevent HIV transmission but we need to make sure everyone who needs them has access to them.
For example, pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a single pill that can be taken daily by HIV-negative people to reduce their risk of infection. When taken consistently, PrEP and condoms have been associated with a rapid decline in new HIV infections, particularly in high-risk populations.
Also, antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces the chance that an HIV-positive person will pass the virus to someone else by 97% and helps them live longer, healthier lives.
Finally, when it comes to HIV prevention, knowledge is power. This is particularly true for adolescent girls who are at greater risk than boys their age in the hardest hit countries. Dropping out of school significantly increases girls’ risk of contracting HIV.
The Global Fund and its partners are helping scale up these tools, providing PrEP to high-risk groups, increasing access to ART, and finding innovative ways to ensure girls have the knowledge they need to stay HIV-free. For example, the “Keeping Girls in School” peer education program in South Africa empowers trainers like Sempiwe to provide counselling, HIV prevention education and academic support to girls her age at their homes.
2) 770,000 people died of AIDS-related causes in 2018.
AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by more than 55% since their peak in 2004. But today, with access to treatment, an HIV-positive person can expect to have the same lifespan as someone who is HIV-negative. With tools like these, no one should have to die of AIDS-related causes. Yet, due to inequities in access, marginalised populations, like adolescent girls, and criminalised populations, such as sex workers, people who inject drugs, and men who have sex with men in countries where these activities are deemed illegal by law, continue to be left behind.
As the second largest donor for HIV/AIDS, the Global Fund’s financing and influence with national governments and stakeholders ensures that those most vulnerable to infection and most in need of services are reached.
3) Over 23 million people were on treatment for HIV in 2018.
Over half of people living with HIV are accessing the treatment they need to live long and healthy lives. But to end the AIDS epidemic, treatment needs to be accessible and affordable to all who need it and we have a ways to go to ensure that’s happening.
The Global Fund is paving the way. In 2017, Global Fund-supported programs provided antiretroviral therapy (ART) to 17.5 million people in 2017. One of those people is Yalfal, from Ethiopia. Yalfal was pregnant, HIV-positive and living in the streets of Addis Ababa when she was connected with a health worker who helped her receive ART and found her a support group. Thanks to treatment and medical care, her baby was born HIV-free!
The Global Fund
To make sure it can continue its critical work, the Global Fund will be hosting its Sixth Replenishment conference in October. They’re asking world leaders and private investors to come together and help save 16 million lives over the next 3 years by investing a minimum of US$14 billion.
This is the bold ambition the world needs to get us on track to stop the spread of diseases like AIDS — and it’s why we’re calling on world leaders to #StepUpTheFight by fully financing the Global Fund.