There is only a distant chance that the world will see an end to the AIDS epidemic in the next 15 years given current trends, aidsmap reports. This reality stands in stark contrast with much of the optimistic, and arguably hyperbolic, rhetoric coming out of various nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations in recent years.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has set ambitious targets for 2020: to get 90 percent of the global HIV population diagnosed, 90 percent of that group on treatment and 90 percent of that group virally suppressed, for an overall viral suppression rate of 73 percent. Achieving the 90-90-90 targets, the agency projects, would be instrumental in ending AIDS as a public health crisis by 2030.
Publishing their findings in The Lancet, researchers analyzed data from the Global Burden of Disease study covering 1980 to 2015 in order to find trends in HIV incidence (annual new infections), prevalence (total number of people living with the virus), use of antiretrovirals and mortality. They examined data on 195 countries.
In 1997, HIV incidence peaked, at 3.3 million new infections, and then declined by 4.8 percent per year through 2005. Between 2005 and 2015, as research made clear the power of ARVs to prevent HIV transmission, the rate of infections remained relatively constant, hovering between 2.5 million and 2.6 million annually.
The number of people living with the virus has only grown with each passing year, albeit more slowly during this century. In 1985, 2.4 million people were living with HIV worldwide, a figure that ballooned to 28 million by 2000. During the following 15 years, HIV prevalence increased by an average of 0.8 percent per year, hitting an estimated 38.8 million in 2015.
Three quarters of HIV transmissions in 2015 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 1.8 million people contracted the virus.
Between 2005 and 2015, HIV incidence increased in 102 of the 195 countries analyzed in the study, including Egypt, Pakistan, Kenya, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mexico and Russia.
The most deadly year in the epidemic was 2005, which saw 1.8 million deaths. By 2015, the annual death rate had declined to 1.2 million.
Reaching UNAIDS’s goal of getting 81 percent of each nation’s HIV population on ARVs by the decade’s end would require doubling the rate of those receiving therapy. In 2015, just 41 percent of those living with the virus worldwide were on treatment.
To read the aidsmap article, click here.
To read the study abstract, click here.