UNAids: New ARV drugs, early diagnosis key to beating Aids epidemic

UNAids says that by June this year around 20.9 million people were receiving life-prolonging ARV treatment.

UNAids executive director Michel Sidibe at at event in Khayelitsha, Cape Town on 20 November 2017. Picture: @UNAIDS/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Developing new front-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and using technology for early diagnosis are among key steps needed to sustain momentum in fighting HIV/Aids and ending the disease as a public health threat by 2030, UNAids said in a report on Monday.

The United Nations Aids agency, UNAids, said that by June this year around 20.9 million people were receiving life-prolonging ARV treatment, with rapid progress seen over the last five years when the numbers of people accessing medication nearly doubled.

“The pace of scale-up has been particularly remarkable in eastern and southern Africa, the region most affected by the epidemic,” said the Right to Health report, released in Khayelitsha township some 31 kilometres from Cape Town.

The number of people on treatment in the region surpassed all other regions combined in 2010 and presently accounts for 60% of all people on treatment. South Africa led the world with the number of people on treatment, at 4.2 million, followed by India, Mozambique and Kenya.

UNAids said the worldwide expansion of ARV therapy was the main factor behind a 48% decline in deaths from Aids-related illnesses, from a peak of 1.9 million in 2005 to 1 million in 2016.

Last year a major milestone was reached, when for the first time more than half of all people living with HIV worldwide were accessing ARV therapy, said the report.

But the disease, which attacks the immune system making the body more susceptible to illness, remains a significant killer.

Aids-related illnesses remain the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age (15-49 years) globally, and they are the second leading cause of death for young women aged 15-24 years in Africa, said the report.