15.7.2015

Specific tribute to South Africa in UNAIDS report

The war against Aids is far from over, but it is being won little by little – thanks largely to a remarkable response from the key players in tackling the pandemic. ‘How Aids Changed Everything’, a new UNAIDS report, makes that much clear. The AIDS response has brought extraordinary results on treatment and prevention. From the vantage point of 2015, it’s easy to forget how different the HIV/Aids landscape looked 15 years ago. In 2000, fewer than 700,000 people globally were receiving antiretroviral medicines. Around 10,000 were in sub-Saharan Africa. 15 Mio people are now on antiretroviral treatment, 3.1 Mio of them in South Africa.
Those who were in treatment in 2000 were paying a hefty price for it: around US $10,000 for a year’s treatment. UNAIDS executive director, Michel Sidibe, recalled that the pharmaceutical industry had had a tight grip on government policies and an even tighter grip on prices. When countries like Brazil, Thailand and India started manufacturing cheap generic versions of the drugs, the pharmaceutical industry was forced to negotiate on prices. South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign earned its place in history when it sued the government for access to the lifesaving medication.
The report pays specific tribute to South Africa’s management of the epidemic, and the work of both civil society and government. Over the last 13 years, donors have invested $84 billion (48% from the US).
But while the global picture might look positive, local health activists warn that in South Africa, much remains to be done. Treatment Action Campaign’s Marcus Low said that South Africa had taken very significant strides against HIV over the last seven or so years and that ist was clear from increases in life expectancy that the large-scale rollout of antiretroviral treatment was saving lives, but while lives were being saved, the rate of new infections was still alarmingly high. Low criticises among other things the “stockouts of essential medicines, long queues, and staff shortages [that] have become far too commonplace.“ The UNAIDS report acknowledges that many challenges remain. As a matter of urgency, HIV testing needs to become more widespread. HIV rates are rising in some countries among men who have sex with men. Sidibe expresses disappointment about the progress made in HIV prevention, and warns that attempts to bring down the HIV rate in young women and girls will have to be paired with gender-based violence prevention. Sidibe also warns that condoms are not yet available on nearly the scale that they should be annually.
This is, in short, no time for resting on laurels. The report calls for the next goal to be the complete eradication of Aids by 2030. (Daily Maverick/Johannesburg)

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