New HIV infections remain a challenge

Although new HIV infections worldwide are slowly declining, the United Nations warns against complacency.

13 August 2019 | Health

An estimated 6 000 adolescent girls and young women become infected with HIV around the world every week.

On the other hand, new HIV infections among young women aged between 15 and 24 have dropped by 25% between 2010 and 2018.

This was said by Gunilla Carlsson, deputy executive director of UNAids, in the foreword of the Aids Report 2019.

According to this report the majority of global infections in 2018 were among key populations and their sexual partners.

Carlsson emphasised that where there are inequalities, power imbalances, violence, marginalisation, taboos, and stigma and discrimination, HIV takes hold.

The report also points out that discriminatory attitudes towards people living with HIV and key populations remain common in too many countries.

It adds that discrimination in these countries is often reinforced by criminal laws, aggressive law enforcement, harassment and violence.

The report says criminalisation of perceived, potential or actual HIV transmission, as well as non-disclosure of HIV-positive status, continues to slow the HIV response and violate the rights of people living with HIV in at least 86 jurisdictions around the world.

It adds that strong progress in settings with high HIV prevalence in the general population, such as in eastern and southern Africa, coupled with a lack of progress in settings where key populations are criminalised and marginalised, has seen the global distribution of new HIV infections cross a notable threshold.

The report also states that among children and adults of all ages, annual HIV infections have declined from 2.1 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2018, a 16% reduction that leaves the world far off the 2020 target of fewer than 500 000 new infections.

The report further states that gay men and other men who have sex with men accounted for an estimated 17% of new HIV infections globally, including more than half of new HIV infections in western and central Europe and North America, 40% in Latin America and 30% in Asia and the Pacific.

It adds that people who inject drugs accounted for an estimated 12% of global infections, including 41% of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and central Asia, and 37% of new infections in the Middle East and North Africa.

On the other hand, sex workers accounted for 6% of global HIV infections, ranging from 14% in western and central Africa to less than 1% in western and central Europe and North America.

The report also states that transgender women made up a small number of new HIV infections globally, but they accounted for 5% of new HIV infections in the Caribbean and 4% of new infections in Latin America and western and central Europe and North America.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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