Despite significant gains made with the global response, which has led to new infections falling by 39% between 2000 and 2016, HIV continues to be a major public health issue. 35 million have lost their lives to the virus. Of these, 1 million died from HIV-related causes in 2016 alone.
36.7 million people were living with HIV at the end of last year with 1.8 million people becoming newly infected. The most affected region remains Africa, where 25.6 million people were living with HIV in 2016. It also accounted for about two thirds of new infections across the world.
54% of adults and 43% of children living with HIV are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). There has been significant increase in access to ART in Africa as well, with this more than doubling from 24% in 2000 to the global average of 54% last year.
However, the fragility of health systems on the continent and the dire state of social and economic determinants of health marked by poor access to sanitation, potable water, safe housing, and depleted income have contributed to the worrisome level of the impact of HIV/AIDS.
Our collective quest for the realisation of the right to health, is thus equally a struggle against the policies which put profit before people, exacerbating poverty and abysmal living conditions of billions of women, men and children. As Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS noted when launching the My Health, My Right campaign last month:
“the right to health is much more than access to quality health services and medicines…it also depends on a range of important assurances including, adequate sanitation and housing, healthy working conditions, a clean environment and access to justice.”
Ending HIV requires the fullest realisation of the right to health, and thus an end to the neoliberal social and economic policies and programmes that governments across the world have prioritised over the past few decades.
PSI continues to challenge these policies. Our stance remains unflinchingly for putting People Over Profit. This requires universal access to quality public services. Public health is under attack. Cuts in funding, privatisation and the increasing policy influence of multinational corporations through free trade agreements and the revolving doors between big business and governments, are detrimental to the goal of leaving no one behind.
Sustainable development requires adequate funding of public health as the veritable basis for attaining universal health care. The right to health, is definitely central to ending the run of HIV/AIDS. We must win this with ceaseless mobilisation and advocacy. This must go apace with our unrelenting fight against stigmatisation and discrimination.
Another world is possible, where together, we would have ended the run of HIV. A better world will be born, with health for all, where the people come first and social justice is enthroned. The time to act for this to be won, is now.