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Press Release: AIDS report: Responses showing results need strengthened support

23. November 2011

    AIDS report: Responses showing results need strengthened support

    Faith representatives welcome results which show that the AIDS epidemic can be ended, but call for increased support towards community-based initiatives and strategic investment now.


    Representatives of churches and Christian organizations campaigning together on HIV and AIDS through the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) have welcomed a new report that shows how the scale-up in HIV treatment is beginning to deliver results: nearly 50% (6.6 million) of the 14.2 million people who are eligible for antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle- income countries were accessing life-saving treatment in 2010, an increase of 1.35 million since 2009. The report, released by UNAIDS on Monday, also estimates that 2.5 million deaths have been averted in low- and middle- income countries due to increased access to HIV treatment since 1995.


    While acknowledging this achievement, faith representatives warn that now is not a time for complacency. “It’s great that half of all people needing treatment now have access to it, but what about the other half?” questions Karen Plater, chair of the EAA’s HIV and AIDS Strategy Group and Associate Secretary, Stewardship and Education for Mission of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. “We are talking about people, not just statistics.”


    EAA members are particularly worried that global funding for the AIDS response fell by 10% in 2010.


    “To ensure universal access to treatment in the face of the current financial crisis, increased strategic investment is needed now. Funding must be sustained but it must also be more strategic and must focus on those communities, often those that are hard to reach, that have been denied access so far”, states David Deakin, chair of the EAA’s Access to Treatment Working Group and HIV Programmes Manager for Tearfund, UK.


    In addition, EAA members are calling for support for innovative initiatives such as the Medicines Patent Pool, which could prove vital for speeding up the development of essential new fixed dose combinations, increasing access to newer, more effective treatments, and stimulating production of paediatric formulations. “Without the new paradigm which the Medicines Patent Pool offers to make new treatments available rapidly and affordably, expanding treatment access in the future in a sustainable way for the predicted 50 million people who will need these medicines by 2030, will be very difficult to achieve”, states Deakin.


    The imperative for further treatment scale-up is illustrated by encouraging early signs that increased treatment access is also reducing the number of new HIV infections. This is in line with groundbreaking research released in 2011 that showed that as the viral load of a person living with HIV is reduced by treatment, it also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to an uninfected partner. The report notes, however, that treatment alone will not achieve the goal of zero new HIV infections: a comprehensive approach that takes into account social and behavioural norms and practices remains vital. 


    ‘We welcome the ongoing commitment of UNAIDS to changing behaviours, changing social norms and changing laws, alongside efforts to improve access to HIV treatment’, says Erlinda Senturias, HIV and AIDS Consultant, Christian Conference of Asia. “To do this, it is vital that governments, civil society, faith-based organizations and religious leaders work together. When we invest in community education we can address violence towards women, improve sexual and reproductive health and eliminate stigma and discrimination against those on the margins of our society. All of these changes will help stop HIV as well.”


    The latest statistics also show a reduction in children who were born with HIV, with AIDS-related deaths among children younger than 15 down by 20% since 2005.

    “We are seeing a positive impact of greater access to ARVs – both for women and children who need them” notes Rev. Msgr Robert Vitillo, Special Advisor on HIV and AIDS, Caritas Internationalis. However, he cautions, “we still have a long way to go - of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, women make up 59%, yet less than 50% of pregnant women living with HIV have access to treatment to keep themselves healthy and to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. The situation of children living with HIV is even worse – some 390,000 were newly infected during 2010 and only 21% of all infected children had access to the treatment they so desperately need to stay alive beyond their second birthday.”


    “The World AIDS Day report is a testament to the commitment to life and justice and activism of people living with HIV, community organizations, faith groups and leaders of the HIV response at all levels,” states Peter Prove, EAA Executive Director. “But the job is not done yet.”


    In 2010, there were an estimated:

    • 34 million [31.6 million – 35.2 million] people globally living with HIV
    • 2.7 million [2.4 million – 2.9 million] new HIV infections
    • 1.8 million [1.6 million – 1.9 million] people who died of AIDS-related illnesses
    • UNAIDS 2011 World AIDS Day Report is available at: www.unaids.org

      For more information contact: Sara Speicher,
      +44 7821 860 723.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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