December 1st is World AIDS Day: a time to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic, and for mourning those who have died of the disease. This year’s theme, “Time to Act Is Now”, reminds us that we have the ability to break this disease. But we must act fast.
When the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, were set by the UN fifteen years ago, one of the goals was to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015. Back then, a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was a death sentence in most developing countries.
But the MDGs shined a light on the problem, and galvanized the global community into action. Numerous programs were initiated for expanding treatment to those in need, including the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease internationally. Since then, new HIV infections have fallen from 2.6 million per year to 1.8 million, and AIDS-related deaths have decreased from 1.6 million to 1.2 million. According to UNAIDS, since the Millennium Development Goals were set by the UN, 30 million new HIV infections and almost 8 million AIDS-related deaths were averted.
At the end of this year, the Millennium Development Goals expire. And one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, which replace the MDGs, is to end the AIDS epidemic by the year 2030. “We have a five-year window of opportunity to change the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” wrote top U.S. AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Deborah Birx. “The UNAIDS Fast-Track approach set ambitious targets for countries to reach by 2020.”
These targets include achieving 90-90-90: 90% of people living with HIV must know their HIV status; 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status must be on treatment; and 90% of people on treatment must achieve suppressed viral loads.
“If we reach these targets, through a data-driven approach focused on geographic areas and populations with the greatest burden, we can avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new HIV infections by 2030,” wrote Ambassador Birx.
“Once we could only dream of creating of an AIDS-free generation. That future is now possible. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to reach it.”