Each year, the international AIDS establishment makes something of a strategic choice: Remind the world of the severity of the epidemic, how much more needs to be done, and how we are failing the world’s most vulnerable; Or, highlight what’s working, demonstrate that the substantial resources invested are making a difference, and that things are generally getting better. This year, they’ve clearly taken the latter approach, and indeed, there is much to celebrate.
In preparation for World AIDS Day (December 1), UNAIDS has released its annual report, which reports some promising statistics:
In South Africa — the country with the largest number of infections in the world, and where for years, a woefully inadequate response was arguably responsible for a substantial rise in deaths and orphaned children — a full 95% of HIV positive pregnant women are now receiving highly effective antiretrovirals for preventing transmission to newborn children.
New HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are down by more than 26% since 1997; and in South Africa, new infections dropped by one-third between 2001 and 2009.
Between 2009 and 2010, ARV coverage rose by 20% in Africa.
The report details some modeling exercises that demonstrate the important impact of various prevention and treatment interventions. Undoubtedly, social scientists will weigh in over the next several months/years to assess the robustness of those claims, but whatever the cause, if these epidemiological trends are accurately portrayed, this is great news.