World Aids Day 2014: Campaigners say world has reached 'beginning of end' of Aids pandemic

The virus has infected and killed millions in the past 30 years

The world has finally reached "the beginning of the end" of the AIDS pandemic that has infected and killed millions in the past 30 years, according to a leading campaign group fighting HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

The campaigners say the number of people newly infected with HIV over the last year was lower than the number of HIV-positive people who joined those getting access to the medicines they need to take for life to keep AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) at bay.

Only one per cent of babies born to mothers who have HIV are HIV positive because of treatments now available.

But in a report to mark World Aids Day on 1 December, the ONE campaign, an advocacy group working to end poverty and preventable disease in Africa, warned that reaching this milestone does not mean the end of Aids was around the corner.

"We've passed the tipping point in the Aids fight at the global level, but not all countries are there yet, and the gains made can easily stall or unravel," said Erin Hohlfelder, ONE's director of global health policy.

 

HIV is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system. People are only considered to have developed Aids when their immune system becomes so weak they are unable to combat diseases which it would normally be able to fight off.

The virus is most commonly passed on through unprotected sexual intercourse or by sharing drug injecting equipment. There is currently no vaccine or cure for HIV but effective treatments now available mean a HIV-positive person receiving regular treatment can have a near normal life expectancy.

According to ONE, HIV is increasingly concentrated among hard-to-reach populations such as injecting drug users, gay men and sex workers - who are often stigmatised and have trouble accessing treatment and prevention services.

The United Nations Aids agency, UNAIDS, says that, by June 2014, some 13.6 million people globally had access to AIDS drugs, a dramatic improvement on the 5 million who were getting treatment in 2010.

But there are now more people than ever living with HIV in the UK - estimated to be about 100,000 - and a quarter of those are believed to be unaware they have the virus. Hohlfelder cautioned: "We should not take a victory lap yet.”

She highlighted several threats to current progress, including a $3 billion (£1.92 bn) shortfall in the funds needed each year to control HIV around the world.

"We want to see bold new funding from a more diversified base, including more from African domestic budgets," she said.

You can read more about the facts and myths surrounding HIV at HIV Aware.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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