World AIDS Day 2016 – closing the #HIVprevention gap
World AIDS Day is marked on 1 December every year so that people globally can stand together in the fight against HIV. In the short time since HIV was first discovered in 1984, more than 78 million have been infected and an estimated 35 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses. This has prompted a concerted public health battle against the disease. Significant progress has been made towards ending the epidemic, yet 36.7 million still live under the shadow of HIV today.
World AIDS Day continues to play a key role in highlighting the worldwide reach of HIV, and reminds the public and governments that the disease has not gone away. Indeed, this year’s event comes at a critical juncture in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Decline in new HIV infections stalled
A report by UNAIDS recently produced shockwaves amongst the healthcare community, showing that the decline in new HIV infections has stalled, and that in many regions infection rates are actually on the rise again. Approximately 1.9 million adults have been infected with HIV every year for the past five years. The regions experiencing the greatest increases in infection rates, between 2010 and 2015, include Eastern Europe and Central Asia (up 57%); the Caribbean (a 9% rise); the Middle East and North Africa (up 4%); and Latin America (a 2% increase).
Commenting on this unwelcome turn of events, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said: “We are sounding the alarm. The power of prevention is not being realised. If there is a resurgence in new HIV infections now, the epidemic will become impossible to control. The world needs to take urgent and immediate action to close the prevention gap.”
Closing the #HIVPrevention gap
So how can we reverse this worrying trend? Put simply, vulnerable populations need to have access to the widest possible range of HIV prevention options so that they are protected from the virus. Yet less than optimal investments in prevention have meant that some populations and locations, such as sub-Saharan Africa, have been left exposed. In such areas, funding for prevention often lags behind that for treatment.
Ensuring no one gets left behind
These concerns have led the World Health Organization to use the occasion of World AIDS Day to advocate for new innovative HIV Testing, the deployment of high impact prevention schemes and quality treatment, to ‘ensure that no one gets left behind’.
UNAIDS has called for an increase in the resources allocated to HIV prevention services so that effective programmes such as condom distribution can be fully delivered. By such action, new HIV infections will be slowed, the number of people requiring treatment will be lowered, and antiretroviral therapy programmes will become more sustainable. Accordingly the new UNAIDS 2016–2021 strategy calls for 20 billion condoms to be available for low- and middle-income countries every year by 2020.
Ulinzi Latex to join fight against HIV
Ulinzi Latex, part of NRS International, has been established to bridge this #HIVprevention gap, and will produce the much needed high quality, reliable and affordable male latex condoms for the institutional market. By 2022, we aim to become the largest condom manufacturer worldwide by volume, producing in excess of 8 billion pieces each year. By working with all stakeholders, we can together make a significant and long-lasting contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS, and so make the world a better place for all.