New HIV infections steady at 2.5 mn a year worldwide

New York: Nearly 2.5 million people worldwide become new victims of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) each year although deaths from the deadly virus have been steadily declining from a peak in 2005, finds a study. The study revealed that despite the annual number of new infections declining from the peak rate of 3.3 million in 1997, the number of new infections is relatively constant in the past 10 years, with a drop of just 0.7 percent a year between 2005 and 2015 compared to the fall of 2.7 per cent a year between 1997 and 2005.  "Our new findings present a worrying picture of slow progress in reducing new HIV infections over the past 10 years," said lead author Haidong Wang, Associate Professor at the University of Washington. Further, the proportion of people living with HIV on Antiretroviral therapy (ART) have increased rapidly between 2005 and 2015, from 6.4 per cent to 38.6 per cent for men, and from 3.3 per cent to 42.4 per cent for women.  Thus, the annual deaths from HIV/AIDS have been declining at a steady pace from a peak of 1.8 million in 2005 to 1.2 million in 2015, partly due to the scale-up of ART.  Yet, most countries are still far from achieving the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)90-90-90 target of 81 percent by 2020, said the paper published in The Lancet HIV journal. ART coverage is highly variable and massive scale-up of treatment is needed in the Middle East, north Africa, eastern Europe and east Asia where only around a fifth of people living with HIV receive ART, and in central Asia where treatment reaches less than a third of people with HIV. "Development assistance for HIV/AIDS is stagnating and health resources in many low-income countries are expected to plateau over the next 15 years," added Christopher Murray, Professor at the University of Washington. A massive scale-up of efforts from governments and international agencies will be required to meet the goal of ending AIDS, along with better detection and treatment programmes and improving the affordability of antiretroviral drugs, the researchers said. For the study, the team conducted a comprehensive analysis of HIV incidence, prevalence, deaths and coverage of ART at the global, regional, and national level for 195 countries between 1980 and 2015.