Despite improved treatments, 2.5 million are infected by HIV every year | health and fitness | Hindustan Times
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Despite improved treatments, 2.5 million are infected by HIV every year

Though drugs have slashed the death rate and virus-carriers live longer now, about 2.5 million people are still getting infected with HIV every year, reported a global AIDS study on Tuesday.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 20, 2016 10:23 IST
Today, there are some 38.8 million people living with the AIDS-causing virus, a steady increase from 28 million in 2000 thanks to the advent in 1996 of life-prolonging antiretroviral therapy.
Today, there are some 38.8 million people living with the AIDS-causing virus, a steady increase from 28 million in 2000 thanks to the advent in 1996 of life-prolonging antiretroviral therapy.(Shutterstock)

Though drugs have slashed the death rate and virus-carriers live longer now, about 2.5 million people are still getting infected with HIV every year, reported a global AIDS study on Tuesday.

New infections have plateaued for the past 10 years after a steep dip from the peak rate of 3.3 million in 1997, said the authors of a comprehensive analysis in The Lancet HIV journal.

Read: How a young doctor shocked India with its first HIV diagnosis 30 years ago

It was published to coincide with the International AIDS conference underway in Durban, South Africa to assess progress in stemming an outbreak that has killed more than 30 million people since the 1980s.

The report paints “a worrying picture of slow progress in reducing new HIV infections,” according to lead author Haidong Wang from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle.

This could be worsened by “stagnating” funding for HIV/AIDS programmes and medicines.

There is no cure or vaccine for AIDS as yet. (Shutterstock)

“Therefore, a massive scale-up of efforts from governments and international agencies will be required to meet the estimated $36 billion (33 billion euros) needed every year to realise the goal of ending AIDS by 2030,” IHME director Christopher Murray said in a statement.

Over the past 15 years, countries have contributed $110 billion in “development assistance” for HIV/AIDS programmes.

Today, there are some 38.8 million people living with the AIDS-causing virus, a steady increase from 28 million in 2000 thanks to the advent in 1996 of life-prolonging antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Read: Antiretroviral therapy cuts HIV spread in couples having condomless sex

Annual AIDS deaths have declined from a peak of 1.8 million in 2005 to 1.2 million in 2015.

There is no cure or vaccine for AIDS.

ART cocktails suppress the virus, enabling people to live long lives, though the drugs are expensive and can have side effects.

‘Dramatic change’ required

Use of antiretrovirals, for long the preserve of the rich, grew from 6.4% of infected men in 2005 to 38.6% ten years later, and from 3.3% to 42.4% for women over the same period, the study found.

Another factor that has helped cut the death rate was education and medicines to prevent infected women passing the virus onto their unborn children, said the report.

The study saw researchers collate HIV data recorded from 1980 to 2015 for 195 countries.

Read: Over 2000 Indians got HIV due to unsafe blood transfusions in 18 months

In spite of advances, most countries are still far from achieving the UNAIDS goal of ensuring that by 2020, 90% of infected people will know their status, and 90% of those will receive ART.

In 2015, 41% of HIV-infected people received ART, said the report.

The picture varied vastly between countries and regions.

In 2015, 1.8 million new HIV infections, some 75%, were in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by 212,500 (8.5%) in south Asia.

“The highest rates of infection were in southern Africa, with more than 1% of the population per year becoming infected in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland,” said the report.

Read: Britain’s Prince Harry takes HIV test live on Facebook

In Europe, the highest rate of new infections was in Russia (57,340) and Ukraine (13,490).

“Global efforts have had less impact on the incidence of new infections than on HIV mortality,” concluded the report.

“Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 will require a dramatic change in how HIV prevention is pursued.”

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