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UN: 'End of AIDS' Still Possible by 2030

FILE - A girl lights earthen lamps during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign on the occasion of World AIDS Day in Kolkata, India, December 1, 2021.

GENEVA — "The end of AIDS" is still possible by 2030, the United Nations said Thursday, but cautioned that the world's deadliest pandemic could only be halted if leaders grasped the opportunity.

"AIDS can be ended by 2030," the UNAIDS agency said as it outlined a roadmap of investment, evidence-based prevention and treatment and tackling the inequalities that are currently holding back progress.

UNAIDS said that ending the pandemic was, above all, a political and financial choice. "Success is possible — in this decade," said executive director Winnie Byanyima.

"The end of AIDS is an opportunity for a uniquely powerful legacy for today’s leaders," Byanyima said, "They could be remembered by future generations as those who put a stop to the world’s deadliest pandemic. They could save millions of lives and protect the health of everyone. They could show what leadership can do."

The U.N. first set out in 2015 the target of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

In 2022, UNAIDS says an estimated 39 million people around the world were living with HIV, of whom 29.8 million were accessing anti-retroviral therapy. Those missing out include 660,000 children.

The numbers on anti-retroviral treatment have near quadrupled from 7.7 million on 2010, according to the agency.

Byanyima said the greatest progress on HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — was being made in the countries and regions that have invested strongly.

She cited eastern and southern Africa, where new HIV infections have dropped by 57% since 2010.

Its report, however, added that there has been a steep increase in new infections in eastern Europe and central Asia, as well as in the Middle East and North Africa.

"These trends are due primarily to a lack of HIV prevention services for marginalized and key populations and the barriers posed by punitive laws and social discrimination," the report said.

Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have already achieved what are called the 95-95-95 targets.

This means that 95% of those living with HIV know their status; 95% of those who know they have HIV are on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment; and 95% of people on treatment achieve viral suppressed.

At least 16 other countries are close to achieving the target.

They include eight in sub-Saharan Africa — the region where 65% of HIV-positive people live — and Denmark, Kuwait and Thailand.

Last year, 1.3 million people became newly infected with HIV and 630,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses, according to UNAIDS.

Information for this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.