Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance

New UNAIDS report


A peer educator gives a condom demonstration in Zambia © Nell Freeman/Alliance

The latest AIDS epidemic update was published this week by UNAIDS and while there is great progress in some areas, there are still huge challenges ahead.

The welcome news is that new HIV infections are down by 17% with the greatest advances reported in sub-Saharan Africa, the hardest hit region in the world.

In East Asia new infections are down by 25% and in South and South East Asia by 10%. The epidemic in Eastern Europe among injecting drug users has levelled off and the numbers of people dying of AIDS-related illnesses has declined by more than 10% over the last five years.

But there is too much to be concerned about for us to become complacent by this success. For example, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age; more than half of people who need treatment are unable to access it; HIV is increasing among men who have sex with men (MSM) in developed countries and last year there were an estimated 430,000 new HIV infections in children under 15 mainly through mother to child transmission.  

Prevention needs more prominence

UNAIDS reports that HIV prevention programmes are making a difference but budgets for HIV prevention comprise the smallest component of national AIDS budgets and if HIV prevention is not given equal prominence to that of HIV treatment we will continue to see new infections increase.

Furthermore, UNAIDS reports prevention programmes are too often not targeted at the most vulnerable or the most at risk groups.

In countries where the epidemic is concentrated among more vulnerable groups such as MSM, injecting drug users or sex workers, the Alliance knows that reaching these groups with effective prevention programmes is a significant challenge unless stigmatising cultural and social attitudes and legal barriers are removed and human rights respected.

In India, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, to overcome the stigma and discrimination MSM were facing in State health facilities the Alliance with partners responded by establishing clinics that meet the specific needs of MSM. Last year 73,057 people were reached through HIV prevention activities and more than 50,000 cases of sexually transmitted infections were treated. Work is now underway with the State authorities to integrate these services into the State health service.

Integrated services

The Alliance supports the UNAIDS’ observation that integrating HIV prevention and treatment programmes with other health and social welfare programmes is important for success.

In South Sudan over 50 healthcare workers from across the country have just been trained by the Alliance to include Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) services into antenatal services so expectant mothers can get HIV testing and treatment at the same time as other neonatal checks.

If we are to prevent treatment programmes becoming unsustainable more resources urgently need to be invested in HIV prevention to stop needless infections.

    budgets for HIV prevention comprise the smallest component of national AIDS budgets