(RxWiki News) For decades, AIDS has been one of the world's deadliest epidemics. But a hard fought battle against the virus is yielding to progress, and resulting in fewer deaths.
As more people get access to antiretroviral drugs, the number of deaths from AIDS continues to drop.
That's according to a new report from the United Nations AIDS program, released in advance of the International AIDS Society's 2012 conference. AIDS deaths dropped from 1.8 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2011.
"Manage HIV with a long-term treatments."
The report is optimistically titled, “Together We Will End AIDS,” and is freely available on the UNAIDS website. UNAIDS is an international partnership with the vision of “zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”
The report focuses on progress and what remains to be done to reach those targets. UNAIDS hopes to secure investments of $22–24 billion by 2015 to fund programs and initiatives to fight AIDS.
Over 34 million people are living with AIDS around the world, said the report. The majority of infections – 69 percent - are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.
Increasing access to antiretroviral drugs in this region has long been a strong focus for the international AIDS community. These life-prolonging drugs can keep HIV from progressing to AIDS for the duration of a patient's life.
In 2003, only 100,000 HIV-positive individuals in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving antiretroviral drugs. Today, that number is over 6 million.
Worldwide, access increased by more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2011, the report said. The number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries jumped from 6.6 million to 8 million.
“This puts the international community on track to reach the goal of 15 million people with HIV receiving treatment by 2015,” said the report, referring to a target set by the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS and adopted by United Nations Member States.
There's also good news about infections among children. According to the report: “Of the estimated 1.5 million pregnant women living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries in 2011, 57% received effective antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV to their children – up from 48% in 2010.”
Although progress has been made, the report stresses that there are still gaps to be filled. Seven million people infected with the virus in low income countries are still not receiving drugs.
The research community is still in pursuit of an AIDS vaccine, which has proved elusive for decades. Recent evidence has shown that getting people on treatment earlier during the progress of the disease has demonstrated benefits.
But there's an open question about how to fund the expansion of programs of research, and how to make treatment sustainable over the course of millions of lifetimes.
The report was published in July 2012.