Sixteen years after the AIDS global conference that served as an eye opener to the world to understand that thousands of Africans were dying of AIDS related complications due to lack of access to antiretroviral drugs, advocacy campaigners and adequate health care, the world once again gathered in Durban, South Africa this week and warned that the progress made since 2000 is not enough to end the epidemic of HIV.
With the theme ‘’Access Equity Rights Now’’, the AIDS conference returned to Durban 16 years after to address the recent increase in new infections that has now risen to 2 million every year leaving about 19 percent of South African adults living with HIV.
Over the years, HIV/AIDS has claimed the lives of 35 million people worldwide. It is true that the antiretroviral drugs has been made available in most countries and locations of Africa and sub Saharan Africa which makes it possible for 17 million people living with HIV to have access to treatment that helps keep their viral load in check.
According UNAIDS, there are about 36.7 million people living with HIV globally presently which means that more than half of those who need the drugs do not have access to them.
With more than 6.8million people living with HIV in south Africa and 5000 new infections occurring every week in sub Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that anybody diagnosed with HIV should be placed on antiretroviral drugs as soon as possible, to help keep them healthy and most importantly because the antiretroviral helps to prevents them infecting other people.
However, the number of people becoming infected every year, which had been dropping, have now stalled and are rising in some countries. With 2 million people becoming HIV positive yearly, this means that the epidemic continues to grow and the cost of keeping people alive continues to rise in the different countries of the world, especially in Africa.
“This was a strategic decision to offer a more holistic format to the traditional conference set-up,” said Chris Beyrer, IAS President and AIDS 2016 Co-Chair. “It will better enable delegates to access the strong pre-conference programming that will be offered.”
Olive Shisana, AIDS 2016 Local Co-Chair said: “This is the second time that Durban will be hosting the International AIDS Conference and marks a major milestone in the HIV response. We want to create an enhanced conference experience for everyone involved.”
With this year’s theme being, “Access Equity Rights Now”; it is a call to action to reach all marginalized groups who remain unattended to and to reach the people who still have little or no access to comprehensive health care system which include treatment, prevention counseling with care and support services. Over 60% of people living with HIV remain without antiretroviral therapy; women and girls, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, young people, and people who use drugs and other marginalized groups remain under-prioritized in the response.
Although proper ways to cut down the rapid growing transmission rate like free condom distribution, proper sensitization, effective use of the antiretroviral, introduction of PrEP and PEP will be discussed, the role of commercial sex workers cannot be over emphasized especially in sub Saharan Africa like Nigeria plus the LGBTI who, of course, are ignored despite the fact that they exist in various groups.
The AIDS Conference 2016 is convened by five permanent partners: International AIDS Society (IAS), Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), the International Community of Women with HIV/AIDS (ICW), International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO) and UNAIDS in collaboration with international and South African scientific and civil society partners. This conference is expected to convene over 18,000 delegates from around the world, including up to 1,000 journalists.