Feature story

An historic opportunity to end AIDS in Africa

20 April 2018

A decade of progress has inspired the once unthinkable—that the AIDS epidemic can be ended as a public health threat. A decade of transformation has set the stage, and the global community is united behind the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

Progress in eastern and southern Africa, the world’s most affected region, is driving global optimism. In the region, the number of people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy has more than doubled since 2010, reaching almost 12.5 million people by June 2017. New HIV infections in eastern and southern Africa have declined by a third in just six years, while AIDS-related deaths in the region plummeted by 42% over the same period.

A new report released by UNAIDS shows that ending the AIDS epidemic in Africa can be reached if investments are secured and plans are in place for long-term sustainability.

The report, Turning point for Africa: An historic opportunity to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 and launch a new era of sustainability recommends developing country-tailored sustainability plans to enable transition towards domestic ownership and financing at each country’s own pace. It also highlights that sustainable progress will require changing policies, increasing human resources for health, increasing efficiencies and addressing systemic inequalities.

The Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé presented the new report to African Ministers of Finance, multilateral partners and other senior officials at a meeting on optimizing investments and partnerships to end AIDS in Africa organized by the United States Department of Treasury and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

“We get a remarkable return from investments in HIV programmes—increased life expectancy, stronger economic productivity, and decreasing health care costs over time as people stay healthy,” said Mr Sidibé. “Governments have set ambitious goals and we are closer than ever before to success. We have broken the epidemic’s trajectory. PEPFAR and Global Fund have driven this progress under the leadership of your governments.  We can all take pride in what has been achieved.”

The report shows that by adopting UNAIDS Fast-Track Targets instead of continuing business as usual, more than 15 million new HIV infections can be averted and more than 5 million lives saved. Moreover, it will avert US$ 4.7 billion of financial resources needed for treatment in sub-Saharan Africa 2017–2030, from which eastern and southern Africa accounts for US$ 1.7 billion and western and central Africa US$ 3 billion.

In opening remarks, Eric Meyer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa and the Middle East, United States Treasury, underscored the importance of health investments to the productivity of national workforces, long-term strength of economies and the ability of Ministers of Finance to reach their goals for economic growth.

Deborah Birx, United States Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, briefed on progress and gaps in the HIV response and the tremendous progress towards epidemic control in many countries.

Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, focused on the need to for efficiency and effectiveness and focused programming.  “We have the very real prospect of being able to end the epidemic—control it effectively—we know what to do.  But it does require more investment in a sustained and highly coordinated fashion.”

The meeting was held in Washington, DC, United States of America, on 19 April, during the annual World Bank Spring Meetings, which bring together finance and development officials, private sector executives and civil society from around the world to discuss issues of global concern.

Turning point for Africa

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