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  • An HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, in Chandigarh, India, May 20, 2018.

    An HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, in Chandigarh, India, May 20, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 July 2019

Globally in 2018, some 770,000 people died of AIDS and almost 38 million people were living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes it.

The global fight against AIDS is stalling due to lower investment, marginalized communities missing vital health services, and new HIV infections rising in some areas, the United Nations warned Tuesday.

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More than half of all new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in 2018 were among sex workers, drug users, men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners and the sexual partners of these groups, according to a report by UNAIDS, adding that many of those populations did not get access to infection prevention services.

Progress in some countries has been "impressive", the U.N. body's report stated, but others are seeing rising numbers of HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, as there have been "worrying increases" in new infections in eastern Europe and central Asia, where HIV cases rose by 29 percent. The Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America are affected as well.

"Ending AIDS is possible if we focus on people, not diseases," said UNAIDS executive director Gunilla Carlsson. Globally in 2018, some 770,000 people died of AIDS and almost 38 million people were living with the virus that causes it.

The U.N. official said now was the time to "create road maps for the people and locations being left behind (and) take a human rights-based approach to reaching people most affected by HIV."

This would need greater political leadership, she said, starting with adequate and well-targeted investment. Even though there was a 16 percent decline since 2010, driven mostly by steady progress in parts of eastern and southern Africa, the figure is way behind the global aim of a 75 percent fall by next year, according to the institution.

South Africa, for example, has cut new HIV infections by more than 40 percent and AIDS-related deaths by around 40 percent since 2010. But the report warned there is still a long way to go in many parts of eastern and southern Africa - the regions most affected by HIV.

"Incident reductions are just too slow to reach the target that has been set out," Peter Ghys, UNAIDS strategic information director, informed.

Global funding for the AIDS fight dropped off significantly in 2018, by nearly US$1 billion, as international donors gave less and domestic investments did not grow fast enough to plug the gap.

Around US$19 billion was available for the AIDS response in 2018, UNAIDS said, falling US$7.2 billion short of the total US$26.2 billion it says is needed by 2020.

HIV cannot be cured but the infection can be kept in check by AIDS drugs known as an antiretrovial treatment. Around 23.3 million of the 37.9 million people with HIV worldwide currently get the AIDS drugs they need.

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