It was no coincidence that the RESULTS International Conference to end global poverty was held at the same time as the AIDS 2012 Conference. It was a huge event and opportunity for over 400 RESULTS Activists to learn about the latest breakthroughs in HIV/AIDS treatments and the impact this devastating disease has had on the world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is rampant, having 22.9 million of the 34 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS.
The impact of AIDS over the last twenty years has been devastating in many ways. It is estimated that over¬†nearly 30 million people have died from AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic (UNAID 2010 report).
HIV/AIDS has torn apart families leaving millions of orphans, many HIV positive themselves, to be raised by grandparents or other family members.¬†HIV/AIDS has infected women and children in alarmingly disproportionate amounts as well leaving them to live in lives of illness, death, uncertainty, stigma, isolation and fear.
Above photo of family living in extreme poverty in Uganda. ¬†Source: Wikipedia Commons.
The impact on women and newborn babies is grim. ¬†Per the Guardian’s recent article 7/25/12,¬†“UN ‘way off target’ on promise to end HIV infections in newborn children”:¬†”More than 330,000 children are still being born with HIV around the world every year, even though there are proven ways to prevent them becoming infected that would also save the lives of their mothers, an international conference has heard”.
“Since 1994 it has been known that pregnant women infected with HIV can be given treatment that will block the transmission of the virus to their baby at birth. But although rich countries acted promptly and now have few babies born with HIV, progress in developing countries is very slow”.
“Although there is a UN-set goal to end new infections in babies by 2015, “we are totally off target,” Chewe Luo, senior adviser on HIV and Aids at Unicef, told the International Aids Conference in Washington, DC. “The analysis we have done is that at most we are reducing these infections by 10% each year. [That means] 330,000 children are acquiring new infections each year”.
The economies of many countries in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa have felt the impact as well, losing out on sick workers and deaths along every ring of society. All in all, HIV/AIDS is a terrible disease that has impacted millions and continues to rage.
Following are some alarming statistics that show the gravity of the problem yet also offers a glimmer of hope in stopping this deadly disease from spreading. (Sources: WHO/UNAIDS and Avert.org).
The following charts below are from Avert,¬†an international HIV/AIDS NGO based in the UK (www.avert.org/wordstats.htm) using¬†statistics published in UNAIDS (11/2010):
The number of people living with HIV rose from around 8 million in 1990 to 34 million by the end of 2010. The overall growth of the epidemic has stabilised in recent years. The annual number of new HIV infections has steadily declined and due to the significant increase in people receiving¬†antiretroviral therapy, the number of AIDS-related deaths has also declined.
Regional statistics for HIV and AIDS, end of 2010Region Adults & children
living with HIV/AIDS Adults & children
newly infected Adult prevalence* AIDS-related deaths in
adults & children Sub-Saharan Africa 22.9 million 1.9 million 5.0% 1.2 million North Africa & Middle East 470,000 59,000 0.2% 35,000 South and South-East Asia 4 million 270,000 0.3% 250,000 East Asia 790,000 88,000 0.1% 56,000 Oceania 54,000 3,300 0.3% 1,600 Latin America 1.5 million 100,000 0.4% 67,000 Caribbean 200,000 12,000 0.9% 9,000 Eastern Europe & Central Asia 1.5 million 160,000 0.9% 90,000 North America 1.3 million 58,000 0.6% 20,000 Western & Central Europe 840,000 30,000 0.2% 9,900 Global Total 34 million 2.7 million 0.8% 1.8 million
* Proportion of adults aged 15-49 who are living with HIV/AIDS
With around 68 percent of all people living with HIV residing in sub-Saharan¬†Africa, the region carries the greatest burden of the epidemic.
South Africa in particular is the hardest hit country in the world. There are over 900 new infections a day.
**All information above from Averts, an international HIV/AIDS organization based in the UK. These statistics are all derived from UNAIDS research.
The good news is that tremendous progress has been made in the battle against HIV/AIDS over the last decade. Progress we never knew was possible. Ten years ago, no one in Sub-Saharan Africa was being treated for AIDS. Today, over 6 million people are being effectively treated with antiretrovirals that have a 96% success rate in not transmitting the disease.
We also know a lot more about keeping people safe from becoming infected through the use of condoms, circumcision and community education and awareness on promoting safe sex. ¬†Finally, we have empowered local governments to take initiative and ownership of fighting the AIDS battle on their own turf. We need 100% cooperation on all ends in order to successfully end AIDS.
During the RESULTS conference last week in Washington DC, we were honored to hear a presentation by Dr. Rajiv Shah, the new Administrator of the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID). Dr. Shah is hopeful that an end of AIDS is possible. He stated that we have the tools, now we need to act by funding them. The key to ending AIDS is through prevention. ¬†It has been proven that early treatment of HIV positive people with antiretrovirals reduces the transmission by 96% meaning a possible end to AIDS is in sight. ¬†Unless we cut back.
Two key vehicles that provide global AIDS Funding is¬†The Global Fund¬†(which was created ten years ago and is the world’s largest source of funding for AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria), and Pepfar¬†(The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).
The Global Fund has ramped up funding over the last three years pledging $4 billion to help fight AIDS, TB and Malaria worldwide. ¬†However, recently the Global Fund has been threatened, jeopardizing millions of dollars in treatments against these diseases and millions of lives at stake. The US Senate has voted to sustain the funding for FY13 yet the US House’s requested funding is well short. We need to ensure that the House meets the Senates’ proposed pledge of $1.65 billion in order to keep progress at bay.
The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) “is the U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world. This historic commitment is the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally, and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the global health spectrum. PEPFAR is driven by a shared responsibility among donor and partner nations and others to make smart investments to save lives”.*
“On July 30, 2008,¬†H.R. 5501, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008¬†was signed into law, authorizing up to $48 billion over the next 5 years to combat global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.”*
*All information from¬†www.pepfar.org.
Again, given the down economy and political battles on Capital Hill a lot of funding is at stake and millions of lives and years are progress are at risk. ¬†Although it is an awful lot of money, it is important to remember which many often forget, that US foreign aid accounts for less than 1% of our federal budget as opposed 24% spent on defense. Can you imagine the impact we’d have on ending global poverty if we increased the percentage even more? ¬†
The naysayers like to argue that we need to spend more than most countries GDP in order to fight against terrorism. Yet many argue that there is no better way to fight against terrorism by ending desolation, destruction, hopelessness and death that is seen throughout the world due to disease, hunger and poverty.
The bottom line:
It took 20 years to get to this point. There is a glimmer of hope that an end to AIDS is possible. We need to get the message out there loud and clear to our government that we cannot stop now. We are almost there. There is an end to AIDS yet it won’t be possible without paying for it. Even if you don’t believe that it is the moral thing to do, the US Government cannot ignore the impacts on our national security and economy. We no longer live in an isolated world. Everything is interconnected. We are one world, a global world.
Funding global health programs such as the Global Fund and Pepfar is not only the right thing to do, it is the moral thing to do. We can no longer let millions of people waste away and die. It is time we stood up for all human beings and the basic human right to life.