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Eastern Mediterranean Region experiencing HIV epidemic
Health

Eastern Mediterranean Region experiencing HIV epidemic

Agency News

Cairo, Nov 29: The Eastern Mediterranean Region is experiencing a fast growing HIV epidemic with a 32 per cent increase in the number of new infections and a 63 per cent increase in the number of AIDS-related deaths since 2010.

At the same time, the region has the lowest coverage of HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services out of all WHO regions globally. The main contributor to low treatment coverage is the low uptake of HIV testing and counselling services. In particular, people at higher risk of HIV are still not being reached by available testing and counselling services.

As part of collective efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goal target 3.3 to end AIDS by 2030, world leaders also set 90-90-90 targets to ensure: 90% of people living with HIV are diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed receive treatment and 90% of those receiving treatment achieve viral suppression, all by 2020.

There is a huge gap in the Region’s testing to reach the first 90% target – diagnosing people living with HIV. Out of the estimated 400,000 people living with HIV in 2018, only 127.000 (32%) were aware of their HIV status, leaving almost 273,000 undiagnosed. This is very concerning considering the risk of their transmitting the virus to other people without knowing. Furthermore, 79% of people living with HIV do not receive the life-saving antiretroviral therapy they need.

World AIDS Day this year focuses on the importance of integrating HIV services within the context of universal health coverage to ensure easily accessible provision of services for everyone, in particular, key groups, to avoid missed opportunities and accelerate progress to the 90-90-90 targets.

On the occasion of World AIDS Day on December 1, Regional Director WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari in a massage said since the first cases of HIV were reported nearly 40 years ago, efforts have been made at global, regional and national levels to combat the HIV epidemic.

Over this time, the evidence with regard to effective interventions has developed, enhancing our ability to prevent infection and care for and treat people living with HIV, and to control the spread of the virus, he said.

In consequence, world leaders were able to pledge to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.3 to end AIDS by 2030 as part of collective efforts to achieve the SDGs. As a milestone towards that goal, they also set the 90-90-90 targets: to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV are diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed receive treatment and 90% of those receiving treatment achieve viral suppression, all by 2020, Dr Ahmed said.

This year’s World AIDS Day comes just before that 2020 milestone. It is therefore a perfect opportunity to take stock and assess both our achievements and our shortfalls in HIV prevention, treatment and care, he said. Unfortunately, the Eastern Mediterranean Region is experiencing a fast-growing epidemic. While the global rate of new infections has been in decline since 2015, our Region has seen a 32% increase in new HIV infections and a 63% increase in AIDS-related deaths compared to 2010. Countries need to intensify prevention efforts to tackle this rise in new infections, Dr Ahmed said.

He said there is a huge gap in the Region’s testing to reach the first 90% target: diagnosing people living with HIV. Out of the estimated 400 000 people living with HIV in 2018, only 127 000 (32%) were aware of their HIV status, leaving almost 273 000 undiagnosed.

This is very concerning considering the risk of their transmitting the virus to other people without knowing. Furthermore, 79% of people living with HIV do not receive the life-saving antiretroviral therapy they need. (UNI)