The number of people receiving HIV treatment reached 15.8 million in June 2015, an increase of 2.2 million on the previous year, says a new report by UNAIDS.
The UN agency predicts that doubling the number of people with access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy by 2020 could help break the global AIDS epidemic.
“The report is showing that every five years we have been able to double the number of people on treatment, which is amazing,” Michel SibidÃ©, executive director of UNAIDS, said at a news conference to launch the report ahead of World AIDS Day on 1 December 2015. “If we manage to sustain our investments, and make sure that we double the number of people on treatment, we can break the backbone of this epidemic.”
Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders lauded the advances in the pace of HIV treatment scale-up, but cautions that “to achieve the global goal of reaching 30 million people with treatment by 2020, we’re going to need to see 3 million new people on treatment each year”.
“Countries should waste no time and take up new World Health Organization guidelines that call for all people living with HIV to be offered immediate treatment,” a spokesperson says.
In 2010, 7.5 million people were accessing ARV treatment, compared with 2.2 million people in 2005.
SibidÃ© also signalled that he would announce a breakthrough in lower prices for second-line ARVs. “We have been able to break the trajectory of this cost for first-line [ARVs], and I hope very soon we will be able to announce reduction for best second-line [ARVs],” he said. “That reduction will help millions of people.”
The agency estimates that at the end of 2014, 36.9 million people were living with HIV, 2.0 million were newly infected and 1.2 million died of AIDS-related illnesses.
The UNAIDS report, ‘On the fast-track to end AIDS by 2030: focus on location and population’, estimates that 41% of all adults living with HIV were accessing treatment in 2014, up from 23% in 2010, and that in the same period, 32% of children with HIV were receiving treatment, up from 14% in 2010.
But regional data show a wide variation in access to treatment. In 2014, treatment coverage of all adults aged over 15 years and living with HIV in eastern Europe and Central Asia was only 18%, and even lower at 14% in the Middle East and North Africa. Access was better in sub-Saharan Africa, the most endemic region, with 41% coverage (36% men; 47% women), and in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America, with 36% and 47% coverage, respectively.