We’ve come a long way since an HIV-positive diagnosis was considered an automatic death sentence.
In fact, a major report by the UN’s Programme on HIV and AIDS says that people with the HIV virus today can expect to live nearly two decades longer than those who were diagnosed in 2001.
This is thanks to more affordable and readily available antiretroviral drugs, which are used to fight the disease. Just look at what Cuba has a achieved.
The average HIV-positive person is now expected to live 55 years – 19 years longer than 14 years ago, according to the report.
In 2000, fewer than 700,000 HIV-positive people had access to treatment. Today, the world has reached a UN target to give 15 million people access to antiretroviral drugs by 2015 – and that’s a pretty massive achievement. Not to mention, one that came nine months early.
The report also revealed that global HIV infection has dropped to 35 per cent, while AIDS-related deaths are down to 41 per cent. The number of newly infected people has dropped from 3 million in 2001 to 2 million in 2014, and HIV-related deaths dropped from 2 million to 1.2 million over the same time period. These figures coincide with an increase in funding for AIDS-related responses from $4.9 billion in 2001 to $21.7 billion today.
But this doesn’t mean the fight is over.
Experts warn that the virus could make a major comeback if governments don’t increase funding and expand access to drugs over the next five years. If the rates of infection increase, greater efforts will obviously be needed.
According to UNAids, between 34.3 million and 41.4 million people are living with HIV, the vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa. The good news is that the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped by 48 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000.
According to the UN, the next step is a goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 – and the next five years are crucial. For this to happen, everyone who is HIV-positive must have access to antiretroviral drugs, and both new infections and AIDS-related deaths must drop to 200,000 a year.
If the next 15 years is as promising as the past 15 years has been, this could very well become a reality.