UN seeks better HIV protection for African girls

The United Nations has asked nations in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide more protection for young girls as they face many HIV-related issues.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS UNAIDS n a press release said young girls “are at high risk of HIV infection, have low rates of HIV testing, and have poor adherence to treatment.”

Also while launching in Windhoek, Namibia, a report entitled “Get on the Fast-Track: the life-cycle approach to HIV“, Mr. Sidibé and President Hage Geingob underscored that prevention is the key to ending the AIDS epidemic among young women.

According to the report, launched ahead of World AIDS Day, recent data from South-Africa shows that young women were acquiring HIV from adult men, while men acquire HIV much later in life, after they transition into adulthood, and continue the cycle of new infections.

The report however shows that more people were now receiving lifesaving antiretroviral drugs with at least “18.2 million people were on life-saving medicines, including 910,000 children”

Mr. Sidibé said countries must now “we must ensure that the world stays on the Fast-Track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 in Namibia, in Africa and across the world.”, adding that “if these efforts are sustained and increased, the world will be on track to achieve the target of 30 million people on treatment by 2020.

According to the report, in 2015, there were 5.8 million people over the age of 50 living with HIV – more than ever before – highlighting that if treatment targets are reached, that number is expected to soar to 8.5 million by 2020.

However, the caveat that chronic disease may increase five-fold in older people living with HIV points to the need for a comprehensive strategy to respond to increasing long-term health-care costs.

The report however warns of the risk of drug resistance along with the need to reduce second- and third-line treatment costs.

It also emphasizes the need for more synergies with tuberculosis (TB); human papillomavirus and cervical cancer; and hepatitis C programmes to reduce illness and death among HIV-infected populations.

“New threats are emerging and if we do not act now we risk resurgence and resistance. We have seen this with TB. We must not make the same mistakes again”, Mr Sidibe warned.

The report, Fast-Track: ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, outlines a set of targets that would need to be reached by 2020, including 90-90-90: 90 per cent of people living with HIV knowing their HIV status; 90 per cent of people who know their HIV-positive status on treatment; and 90 per cent of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads.

Rafat Salami