Each year, on World AIDS Day (December 1), we pause to reflect on the lives lost to the deadliest epidemic in history. We also take time to recharge our batteries for the battle ahead, a fight that appears winnable for the first time.
While more than 25 million people have died of AIDS since GAIA’s founding in 2000, and 37 million are living with HIV today, it is a time of unparalleled optimism in the global fight against HIV. The numbers, while hopeful, remain sobering:
New infections. Since our founding, new infections have fallen by more than a third, from 3.2 million to 2.1 million last year. These represent the fewest new infections in a generation.
Deaths. In 2000, 1.5 million people died of AIDS; last year there were 1.1 million deaths, including 800,000 Africans (90,000 of them children). Today there are more than 13 million AIDS orphans, most of them in Africa.
Access to treatment. In 2000, fewer than 800,000 people living with HIV accessed vital antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, virtually all of them in the wealthiest countries. In the years since, that number has increased more than twenty-fold, with the greatest growth in Africa.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe has declared that, with the right investments of KNOWN technologies between now and 2020, we can end AIDS by 2030. This is possible due to miraculous medical breakthroughs that not only save lives, but that have turned treatment into prevention.
The challenge remains daunting with roughly half of all HIV cases still undetected. And most of these live far off the grid – like where GAIA works in Malawi – and lack even the awareness that a daily pill can save their lives. The global AIDS response has long been noble work, even when limited to providing comfort to the dying. But we now have a roadmap to the END OF AIDS. My batteries are charged. Will you join us?
GAIA President & CEO
A version of this piece, co-written with Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Managing Director Joel Goldman, will appear in today’s Huffington Post.