On World AIDS Day, while we recognize the progress made against HIV globally, we must measure that progress against the urgent needs that remain.
This World AIDS Day finds more than 20 million people accessing antiretroviral treatment and services that protect those living with the virus from illness, and that protect others from infection. This World AIDS Day finds HIV infections among young women and girls dropping from last years numbers, and an estimated 14 million men and boys during the last eight years lowering their chances of infection with medical circumcision.
However, this World AIDS Day also finds 1.8 million additional people now living with HIV who were free of the virus the year before. While antiretroviral treatment now offers millions of people the chance to live near-normal life spans, this World AIDS Day commemorates more than 35 million people who lost their lives to this virus, one million more in the last year alone. This World AIDS Day finds 16 million people living with HIV still waiting for the treatment they need to survive, to lead productive lives, and to prevent transmission. We see tuberculosis, a curable disease, continuing to be the leading killer of people living with the HIV.
As physicians and scientists who labor daily on infectious diseases and HIV confront the toll of the HIV pandemic, we appreciate the strides against a virus that once represented an almost certain death sentence. We know the difference that accessible health care has made in the U.S. and around the world. This clear difference rests on U.S. leadership and resources through both the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria. The tide has begun to turn in this pandemic.
We have also seen recent and ongoing challenges to continued progress, in funding and policies that have the potential to narrow access to health care and to limit access to treatment and prevention services. As clinicians and researchers on the frontlines of the HIV pandemic at home and abroad, we feel the urgency and the hope that continued, robust responses informed by science and supported by committed leadership yielding funding may carry the day.
This World AIDS Day occurs at a pivotal point in a historic effort to end the impacts of a single deadly disease. We call for renewed commitments to scale biomedical interventions that have been proven to save lives and to prevent transmission. There are pressing needs to increase investments in scientific research and development for new medicines and vaccines. Through continued U.S. support and leadership, the global community can work toward control of this epidemic virus and end AIDS as a global public health threat.