HIV Epidemic Could Rebound 'Catastrophically' If Access To Funding And Drugs Don't Increase, Study Warns

The HIV epidemic could rebound dramatically resulting in "catastrophic" consequences if countries fail to increase funding and widen access to drugs within the next five years, a new report warns.

The document, published on Thursday by UNAIDS and Lancet Commission, says that countries most affected by the disease must focus on preventing new HIV infections and improve access to antiretroviral treatment.

Despite vast improvements being made to increase access to HIV treatment globally, the rate of HIV infections is not falling fast enough, the report shows.

This means that the next five years provides a "fragile window" to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS and co-convenor of the Commission said: “If we don’t, the human and financial consequences will be catastrophic.”

“We must face hard truths—if the current rate of new HIV infections continues, merely sustaining the major efforts we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from AIDS increasing within five years in many countries,” said Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, co-chair of the Commission, and lead author of the report.

“Expanding sustainable access to treatment is essential, but we will not treat ourselves out of the AIDS epidemic. We must also reinvigorate HIV prevention efforts, particularly among populations at highest risk, while removing legal and societal discrimination.”

The report highlights that international financial support to poorer countries "with a high HIV burden" will be needed for many years to come.

The study predicts that sustaining current HIV treatment and prevention efforts would require up to 2% of GDP, and at least a third of total government health expenditure, in the most affected African countries from 2014 to 2030 to fund HIV programmes.

If governments make the most of this five-year window of opportunity, HIV transmission and AIDS-related deaths could be greatly reduced and mother-to-child transmission virtually eliminated by 2030, the report shows.

In order to accomplish this, there will have to be an increase of resources as well as a more strategic and efficient use of them.

The study criticises those countries that have become complacent, with some nations that once had stable or declining HIV epidemics now showing trends of increasing risky sexual behaviours among at-risk groups over the past five years, with new HIV infections on the rise.

Recent studies also found evidence of resurgent HIV epidemics among men who have sex with men in western Europe, North America, and Asia.

The report makes seven key recommendations, leading with the urgent need to boost AIDS efforts, get serious about HIV prevention and continue expanding access to treatment.

The report also recommends an efficient mobilisation of more resources for HIV prevention, treatment, and research, and for robust, transparent governance and accountability for HIV and health.

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