A new UNAIDS
report released earlier today ahead of the 20th
International AIDS Conference, which convenes next week in
Australia, revealed that 19 million of the 35 million people living with
HIV/AIDS today worldwide do not know they are infected with the virus.
The news prompted AIDS
Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to call for immediate action, including
a renewed focus on, and widespread scale up of HIV testing, linkage and
access to lifesaving care and treatment globally.
"Looking at these UN numbers, an astounding 57% of the 35 million people
living with HIV or AIDS worldwide today do not know that they are
infected. This news must serve as a reality check and a wake up call: we
cannot achieve global AIDS control and halt the spread of the virus
without a radical overhaul of how we approach HIV testing, linkage and
treatment access," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS
Healthcare Foundation. "Massive-and innovative-scale up of testing and
likage to care and treatment must now be the order of the day around
"Ironically, the nearly 20 million number of people worldwide who do not
know their HIV status parallels the numbers and goals of the 20x20
Campaign, an ambitious global treatment initiative to ensure that 20
million people are on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment by 2020," said Terri
Ford, Chief of Global Policy & Advocacy for AHF. "If we are to truly
break the chain of new HIV infections worldwide, HIV testing must
take center stage as a priority."
The UNAIDS Gap Report also revealed, "…that as people find out their
HIV-positive status they will seek life-saving treatment…Research shows
that in sub-Saharan Africa, 76% of people on ART have achieved viral
suppression, whereby they are unlikely to transmit the virus to their
sexual partners." The report emphasized, "… the need for equal
access to quality HIV services as both a human rights and public health
Release of the UNAIDS report also prompted AHF officials to reflect on
the disproportionate amount of attention or focus that has recently been
placed on pre-exposure prophylaxis, or 'PrEP' as a possible method of
HIV prevention. "In 2013, there were 1.5 million AIDS deaths globally.
Today, UNAIDS releases the dispiriting news that 19 million of the 35
million living with HIV/AIDS do not even know they are infected with the
virus. Yet many in the AIDS community and the media remain
disproportionately focused on PrEP," added AHF's Weinstein.
In November 2007, the World Health Organization made headlines when it
revised its estimate of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide from
approximately 39 million down to 33 million. AHF noted in a statement at
the time that the vast majority of people who are infected with HIV
don't know it, so there was actually no way to know if the
new WHO figure was any more reliable than the previous estimation.
"Let's stop guessing and make routine testing worldwide a priority," AHF's
Weinstein said in that 2007 statement.
About AIDS Healthcare Foundation
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS
organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to nearly
315,000 individuals in 34 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin
America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn
more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org,
find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth
and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare.
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