Arab and world HIV infections leveling-off despite high numbers

Arab and world HIV infections leveling-off despite high numbers
3 min read
19 July, 2016
Data shows a sharp decrease in people contracting HIV, but the alarmingly high numbers must be tackled, a new study warned.
2.5 million contracted the disease last year, a fall from 3.3 million in 1997 [Getty]

The level of people contracting HIV every year has settled, as drugs continue to slash the death rate of carriers, a global AIDS study said con Tuesday.

Some 2.5 million people are still becoming infected with the virus, down from a peak rate of 3.3 million in 1997, authors of the comprehensive analysis in The Lancet HIV journal said.

But the report highlights a "a worrying picture of slow progress in reducing new HIV infections," according to lead author Haidong Wang from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Though a steep dip was recorded, the figure remains "staggering" and "means that AIDS is not over," according to Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and founding executive director of UNAIDS.

"New infections of HIV in the world is probably the most disturbing factor that has been announced here at the conference," he added.

In March, the Council of Arab Ministers of Health has unanimously endorsed a resolution that urges countries to accelerate their efforts for the implementation of the Arab AIDS Strategy as part of an international vision to end AIDS by 2030.

The league of Arab states is committed to supporting the United Nations general assembly high-level meeting on ending aids and a strong political declaration to end aids by 2030

“Through the strong, dynamic partnership with the UNAIDS regional support team, we have achieved great results in the last three years,” Ahmed Benhelli, deputy secretary-general, league of Arab states said.

“The league of Arab states is committed to supporting the United Nations general assembly high-level meeting on ending aids and a strong political declaration to end aids by 2030.”

An estimated $36 billion is annually needed to achieve ambitions to end AIDS by 2030, IHME director Christopher Murray said in a statement, urging a massive increase in efforts by governments and international agencies.

"In 2015, (funding) fell below the level spent in 2014, and in many low-income countries, resources for health are scarce and expected to grow slowly, if at all," said Wang at a press conference in Durban.

"We must slow rates of new infection."

Currently, some 38.8 million people live with the virus, and annual AIDS deaths have declined from a peak of 1.8 million in 2005 to 1.2 million in 2015, the study showed.

The report, which collected data from 195 countries recoded between 1980 and 2015, was published to coincide with the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen are included in the UNAIDS MENA region.


Agencies contributed to this report.