The World Health Organization, WHO on Tuesday, revealed that Africa has made tangible progress in reducing new HIV infections.
This was contained in a statement issued by the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti to mark the 2021 World AIDS Day.
The WHO also called for support for those living with the virus, stressing that the continent still has work to do in ensuring that HIV is eradicated.
The statement reads, “We cannot adequately express our support for those living with HIV, especially within a context where we know that treatment and care have been negatively impacted across Africa by the demands of COVID-19. As we remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS this year, we also acknowledge the terrible death toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken and continues to take.
“Going forward, we cannot afford to lose focus on the urgent need to end the inequities that drive AIDS and other epidemics around the world. It has been 40 years since the first HIV cases were reported. Yet, in Africa and globally, it remains a major public health concern.
“Last year, two out of every three new HIV infections occurred in the African Region, corresponding to almost 2 500 new HIV infections every day. Sadly, AIDS claimed the lives of 460 000 people, or a shocking 1 300 every day, in spite of free access to effective treatment.
“The challenges notwithstanding, Africa has made significant progress against HIV in the past decade, reducing new infections by 43% and nearly halving AIDS-related deaths. In the Region, 86% of people living with HIV know their status, and 76% are receiving antiretroviral therapy.
“We also salute Botswana, which is on the home stretch to eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission in what is a truly remarkable public health success. Only 16 countries have been certified for eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission, none of which had as large an epidemic.
“It’s taken more than two decades of hard work by leaders, health workers and communities, illustrating what is possible when the health and welfare of mothers and children are prioritized.
“The continent as a whole is, however, unlikely to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, after we fell short of the expected 75% reduction in new HIV infections and 81% reduction in AIDS-related deaths by 2020. Despite the very high percentages of people living with HIV who know their status, and treatment rates, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are not decreasing concomitantly.
“It remains critical for us to reach those who are fuelling the epidemic, addressing the persistent inequities in the provision of quality care and interventions. For instance, in West and Central Africa last year, key populations and their sexual partners accounted for 72% of new adult HIV infections.
“Yet punitive laws, policies, hostile social and cultural environments, and stigma and discrimination, including in the health sector, prevent them from accessing services.