Every year, on December 1st, World AIDS Day events take place across the world to raise awareness and show support for people living with HIV, as well as to commemorate those who have lost their lives as a result of the virus.
Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have contracted the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV/AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst affected region, with around 25.6 million people living with HIV in 2015. In addition, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of the global total of new HIV infections.
There has been significant progress in combating the devastating virus. In 2015, the global HIV epidemic claimed fewer lives than at any point in almost two decades. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of HIV infections declined by 35%. Furthermore, the number of AIDS-related deaths fell by 45% saving approximately 8 million lives. Part of the explanation for this is the success of national and international HIV prevention programmes and the massive expansion of antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Having achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV, world leaders have set the “Fast-Track” targets to accelerate the HIV response and to eradicate AIDS by 2030. It has been projected that the expanding ART to all people living with HIV, and expanding prevention choices, will help to avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.
The biggest ever trial of a new HIV vaccine has begun in South Africa. Researchers hope the vaccine, currently named HVTN 702, could lead to a cure for HIV/AIDS. The trial is based on a trial from Thailand in 2009 which showed a 31% reduction in HIV after three years. In the South African study, researchers are hoping to prove HVTN 702 is at least 50% effective.
The trial is being jointly funded by the U.S. government’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the U.S. military, the South African Medical Research Council, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“If deployed alongside our current armoury of proven HIV prevention tools, a safe and effective vaccine could be the final nail in the coffin for HIV”, said Anthony S Fauci, Director of NIAID.
To get involved, follow the conversation on twitter #worldaidsday or visit the World AIDS Day website: http://www.worldaidsday.org/events to find events near you.
Learn about innovations and best practice to tackle HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases at the 2nd annual Aid & Development Africa Summit on 28 February to 1 March 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya. Hear from over 70 expert speakers including Miriam Maluwa, Country Director, Ethiopia at UNAIDS, and gain valuable insights regarding disease prevention and control, vaccinations as well as updates on regional health programmes, collaborations and rapid testing solutions.