AIDS Could Be Ended as Threat to Global Health by 2030, UN Says

AIDS, the global epidemic that has killed more than 36 million people, could be ended as a public health threat by 2030 if new plans to prevent infections are implemented widely, according to a United Nations report.

Expanding treatment to 90 percent of people with HIV by 2020 from 38 percent now will help reverse the epidemic, preventing 21 million deaths and 28 million infections in the following decade, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS, wrote in a report today. Maintaining current treatment levels would enable the epidemic to rebound, jeopardizing years of progress.

Studies have shown that treating those infected with anti-HIV drugs as early as possible, instead of waiting for their immune systems to deteriorate to certain levels, suppresses the virus to a point where it’s almost impossible to transmit. Expanding condom use, education and male circumcision programs in Africa will also help to reduce infections, saving $24 billion in health care costs, according to the report.

“We have bent the trajectory of the epidemic,” Michel Sidibe, the executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement. “Now we have five years to break it for good or risk the epidemic rebounding out of control.”

Almost 75 million people have been infected with HIV since the epidemic began, and 36 million have died, according to the World Health Organization. About 35 million globally are living with HIV, though the number of annual AIDS-related deaths has declined each year since 2005 because of expanding access to treatment.

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