UN posts 1.5m AIDS infections, 650,000 deaths globally for 2021
The Joint United Nations Programme on Human Immuno-deficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (UNAIDS), yesterday, warned that millions of lives were at risk, as a move to control the disease falters.
Latest figures from the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022 showed that 1.5 million new persons were infected with HIV, while 650,000 died of AIDS in 2021.
It noted: “Every day, 4,000 people – including 1,100 young people (aged 15 to 24 years) – become infected with HIV. Faltering progress meant that approximately 1.5 million new HIV infections occurred last year, representing over one million more than the global targets.
“The human impact of the stalling progress on HIV is chilling. In 2021, 650,000 (500,000–860,000) people died of AIDS-related causes – one every minute. With the availability of cutting-edge antiretroviral medicines and effective tools to properly prevent, detect and treat opportunistic infections such as cryptococcal meningitis and tuberculosis, these are preventable deaths.”
The report warned that without accelerated action to prevent people from reaching an advanced stage, AIDS-related causes would remain a leading cause of death in many countries.
In addition, it said that continued rising new HIV infections in some regions could halt or even reverse progress made.
According to the report, trends in HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are driven by the availability of services. Here, too, signs are worrisome, as the expansion of HIV testing and treatment services stalls. The number of people in treatment increased by only 1.47 million in 2021 compared to net increases of more than two million people in previous years. This represents the smallest increase since 2009.
Also, the document showed that progress is slowing, as available resources in low and middle-income countries decline, leaving their HIV responses $8 billion short of the amount needed by 2025.
Many major bilateral donors are reducing international assistance for AIDS.
The update submitted that official development assistance for HIV from bilateral donors other than the United States had plummeted by 57 per cent over the last decade, making the 2022 replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) more critical than ever.
It noted that in 2021, international resources available for HIV were six per cent lower than that in 2010.
UNAIDS said global economic conditions and vulnerabilities of developing countries, worsened by growing inequalities in access to vaccines and health financing, threaten both the continued resilience of HIV responses and their ability to close HIV-related inequalities.
The World Bank projects that 52 countries, home to 43 per cent of people living with HIV, would experience a significant drop in their public spending capacities through 2026.
According to the report, high levels of indebtedness are further undermining the capacity of governments to increase HIV investments. Debt servicing for the world’s poorest countries has reached 171 per cent of all spending on health care, education and social protection combined.
It added: “Increasingly, paying off the national debt is crowding out health and human capital investments that are essential to ending AIDS. Middle-income countries—home to 71 per cent of people living with HIV and 71 per cent of people newly infected with HIV—are in danger of being declared ineligible for health and HIV grants as donor countries redirect their resources to Ukrainian refugees and rebuilding rather than expanding international assistance.”
UNAIDS said new investments are needed now to end AIDS by 2030. Making good on the promises made within the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2021 will be markedly less expensive than underinvesting now and risking further backsliding.
The agency, however, said there are bright spots, including robust declines in annual HIV infections in the Caribbean and western and central Africa—the latter drove largely by improvements in Nigeria. These decreases in infections represent accelerating progress. In global figures, however, this progress is being drowned out by a lack of progress in other regions: HIV infections have now increased since 2015 in 38 countries globally.
Countries that have robust estimates of increasing new HIV infections since 2015 are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Belize, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, the Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Ireland, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Senegal, Serbia, South Sudan, Sudan, Suriname, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Uruguay and Yemen.
UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, in a foreword to the report, said: “The new data revealed in this report are frightening- progress has been faltering, resources have been shrinking and inequalities have been widening. Insufficient investment and action are putting all of us in danger- we face millions of AIDS-related deaths and millions of new HIV infections if we continue on our current trajectory.
“Together, world leaders can end AIDS by 2030 as promised, but we need to be frank- that promise and the AIDS response are in danger. Faltering progress meant that approximately 1.5 million new HIV infections occurred last year—more than one million more than the global targets. In too many countries and for too many communities, we now see rising numbers of new HIV infections when we needed to see rapid declines. We can turn this around, but in this emergency, the only safe response is to be bold. We can only prevail together, worldwide.
“The number of people on HIV treatment grew more slowly in 2021 than it has in over a decade- while three-quarters of all people living with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment, approximately 10 million people do not. Only half (52 per cent) of children living with HIV have access to life-saving medicine, and the inequality in HIV treatment coverage between children and adults is increasing rather than narrowing.”
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