Back in 2016, UNAIDS published a document entitled The AIDS Epidemic Can Be Ended by 2030. According to the document, the unequal distribution of treatment resources is one of the main obstacles standing in the way of getting rid of HIV forever. UNAIDS officials projected that this issue could be overcome by 2020, helping for the complete eradication of the disease one decade later.
It’s already 2021 and 2020 was a surprising year, to put it in mild terms. Lots of testing and medication development resources were redirected in an attempt to address the Covid-19 pandemic. Have these issues affected the timeline of the UNAIDS HIV plan? Would it still be possible to end AIDS by 2030?
Ending HIV by 2030 Is Still Feasible
Authorities from across the world have recently issued statements, suggesting that ending the AIDS pandemic by 2030 is feasible.
The HIV Commission of England stated in December 2020 that evidence-based national recommendations could help meet the goal. The report tackles many aspects of managing HIV – from destigmatisation to allocating more research funding to prevention and vaccine development.
The CDC in the US has come up with a similar plan. As per its recommendations, the focus would fall on the communities and the societal groups impacted the most by HIV. Experts will focus on 50 areas that account for more than half of all new HIV diagnoses in the country.
While such efforts are commendable, other parts of the world are in a much more pronounced need of serious measures. Sub-Saharan African countries are still disproportionately stricken by HIV while large groups lack access to testing and prevention options.
2019 statistics suggest that the East and Southern Africa region is the home of 20.7 million people who live with HIV or AIDS. The prevalence of the infection in the 15 to 49 age groups is 6.7 per cent and the number of new infections reaches 730,000 on an annual basis.
Luckily, progress has been made towards meeting the 90-90-90 target in Sub-Saharan Africa. The 90-90-90 target refers to having at least 90 per cent of the people living with HIV knowing their status, having 90 per cent of these people on antiretroviral therapy and eventually getting 90 per cent to be completely supressed.
As per the 2019 statistics, 87 per cent of the HIV-positive individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa are aware of their status, 83 per cent are on HIV treatment and 90 per cent of those being treated are completely virally supressed.
These are all steps in the right direction. In addition, various HIV-related trials are underway in African countries, which means that sufficient resources are being allocated to research. In December 2020, the first African PrEP vaccine study commenced. Previously, we’ve written about an injectable HIV PrEP trial taking place in seven Sub-Saharan countries and a dapivirine vaginal ring trial being carried out among African women.
Four Decades of Fighting HIV Are Enough
The world has been attempting to eradicate the HIV pandemic for more than four decades now. Massive progress has been made but needless to say, a lot of work is yet to be done.
Ending the epidemic will be heavily dependent on a systemic, healthcare response in countries across the globe. The unequal allocation of resources, cultural, societal and political challenges are standing in the way of meeting the goal.
And while budgets may be available in some countries, there are still issues linked to allocating such resources to those who need them the most.
The UNAIDS modelling has also shown that the challenges the world faced in 2020 shouldn’t be a reason for a delay of the 2030 target.
Several scenarios have been examined in various countries and these span the course of the next five years. According to the models, the Covid-19 disruptions could contribute to anywhere between 123,000 and 293,000 additional HIV infections over the forecast period and 69,000 to 148,000 additional HIV deaths (depending on the severity of the complications linked to the particular scenario).
While these numbers seem shocking, there’s some silver lining in the report. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are projected to be fairly short-lived. While some hindrances will be experienced in the years to come, these aren’t going to be pronounced enough to push the 2030 goal back.
Action Is Being Undertaken in Singapore
All of the forecasts and the models mentioned so far refer to global projections and to the most problematic parts of the world, as far as the HIV efforts are concerned. But how is Singapore doing and are efforts being made to meet the 2030 goal?
According to the National Institute for Infectious Diseases, an ambitious anti-HIV program is already underway. The National HIV Programme (NHIVP) focuses on patient-centred, evidence-based care for HIV-positive people in Singapore. Ending stigma and cultural discrimination have also been built into the core of the NHIVP.
Singapore had its first HIV case reported in 1985. Since then, a lot of progress has been made. Testing is readily available through STD clinics like Shim Clinic. In addition, Singaporeans have access to antiretroviral therapy, as well as HIV PEP and PrEP preventative options.
NHIVP concentrates on increasing awareness and societal education. An important goal is to get people who have potentially been exposed to come forward for testing. In addition, work is being done to allocate enough resources to prevention campaigns and research, boosting the effectiveness of HIV care initiatives.
Ending HIV and AIDS by 2030 is feasible. Large scale, institutional efforts will provide the biggest push. Individual effort, however, will also matter. That individual effort comes in the form of educating oneself, getting tested regularly and acting responsibly towards one’s sexual partners.
Service providers like Shim Clinic can help to boost awareness, present the options and facilitate regular testing. If you’re interested in learning more about your options (in a confidential way), don’t hesitate to visit Shim Clinic during our working hours every day of the week.