IAVI has joined world leaders, researchers and advocates gathered at UN Headquarters for a three-day conference aimed at accelerating progress toward an ambitious goal—to end AIDS by 2030.
Delegates to the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS have called for accelerated action against the disease through intensified prevention, treatment, care and support programs that will help reduce new infections and increase life expectancy, quality of life and the dignity of all people living with, at risk of, and affected by HIV/AIDS and their families.
“The global fight against HIV/AIDS is one of the greatest challenges of modern times. The delegates in New York, as well as civil society, governments, international agencies, researchers and health care professionals around the world deserve to be congratulated for unprecedented solidarity, political will, innovation and funding that have enabled remarkable progress in treatment and prevention,” says Mark Feinberg, IAVI’s President and CEO. “And while we must make maximum use of all available tools, there is an urgent need to continue to invest in new prevention tools, including a vaccine, as well as a cure. Only a comprehensive response will rid the world of HIV/AIDS once and for all.”
Current trends suggest that existing treatment and prevention options are not sufficient to stanch the AIDS epidemic. “We need innovation in HIV prevention,” says Feinberg. “We must better understand people’s constraints and preferences in using HIV prevention, and make sure they can access and adhere to existing methods. But we will also need new approaches that better reflect people’s lives. Vaccines have proven to be the most effective tool to help control and eradicate infectious diseases.”
While remarkable progress has been made, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from being over. While 17 million people were receiving antiretroviral treatment by the end of 2015, nearly 20 million people living with HIV worldwide still didn’t have access to treatment. Ambitious targets have helped save millions of lives and reduce new annual infections by more than 30% since 2000. However, infection rates have leveled around 2 million for more than five years now despite more-than-doubled treatment rates. In 2015, new HIV infections increased for the first time in 15 years, by 5 percent, to 2.1 million globally.
Sub-Saharan Africa was home to two-thirds of the world’s new HIV infections in 2015. Women there are shouldering a disproportionate share of the burden, and infection rates among that demographic as well as the large and fast-growing group of young people remain alarmingly high. Meanwhile, new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia rose by 57 percent in 2015 alone.
A vaccine is needed to conclusively and sustainably end HIV/AIDS
Recent modeling data show that even with massively expanded use of current treatment and prevention options, hundreds of thousands of people in the low- and middle-income countries will be newly infected with HIV and die from AIDS for decades to come. The same modeling work suggests that an efficacious, well-adopted vaccine could prevent the majority of new annual HIV infections in low- and middle-income countries, averting millions of infections and savings millions of lives.