UNAIDS Report silent on need to scale up HIV treatment: MSF


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By Byron Mutingwende

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has noted that while progress has been made, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report released on Thursday 20 July 2017 fails to recognise the need for continued support to scale-up treatment and prevent needless AIDS-related deaths.

The UNAIDS report shows a reduction in AIDS-related deaths and states that more than half of all people living with HIV have access to treatment.

“Unfortunately, this report fails to recognise that sustained support is critical and that many people living with HIV/AIDS—like those in West and Central Africa—remain neglected and continue to suffer needlessly and die silently from AIDS-related diseases and infections. Today’s report finds that there were 1 million AIDS-related deaths last year, compared to 1.9 million in 2005,” MSF said in a statement.

“While it is good news that so many are now on HIV treatment, one million deaths is still too many. There is still an AIDS crisis and it is gravely concerning that international assistance for HIV and AIDS is now being withdrawn under the wrong assumption that the battle has been won.

“So many of these deaths are preventable. People with HIV are still developing AIDS who go on to develop tuberculosis and opportunistic infections such as cryptococcal meningitis. UNAIDS’ data shows that one in three people with HIV only start antiretroviral treatment after they had already developed AIDS. This makes it more likely their overall outcome will be worse. What’s more, people with HIV often don’t get the care they need for these opportunistic infections, when they need it.

“The global HIV response must scale-up antiretroviral treatment to more people sooner. With more people on treatment, it is critical that sufficient resources are available to prevent and address AIDS-related diseases which remain difficult and costly to treat with the current means available.” said Sharonann Lynch, HIV and TB advisor for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Access Campaign.

Speaking during an ongoing symposium in Harare dubbed “Youth Changing the River’s Flow” organised by the SAFAIDS, Emmanuel Gasa, the Director of The Arts and AIDS Foundation (TAAF Zimbabwe) said the reduction in donor funding to tackle HIV and AIDS under the Global Fund and by civil society was unfortunate.

“The number of people who are going to die will increase if funding for HIV treatment is reduced. The majority of people on ARVs receive treatment for free because someone somewhere is subsidising the drugs. Any reduction in funding will be catastrophic,” Gasa SAID.

Speaking at the symposium, UNAIDS Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Pierre Somse praised Zimbabwe for its strides in reducing the HIV prevalence.