The United Nations announced Wednesday that Aids-related deaths and new HIV infections fell by over a third in a decade.
The development raises optimism of eradicating new infections of the killer disease by 2030 – however, with more than half of the 35 million people living with HIV unaware they are infected, the battle is far from over, according to Michel Sidibé, the executive director of Unaids.
“If we are smart and scale up fast by 2020, we’ll be on track to end the disease burden by 2030, so that Aids is no longer a public health threat,” he said.
“We have a fragile window of opportunity, because what we do over the next five years will determine the next 15.”
Unaids said Aids-related deaths dropped to 1.5 million in 2013 from 1.7 million in 2012, which is the sharpest reduction since its peak in 2004 and 2005, while new infections also fell by 38 per cent from 3.4 million in 2001 to 2.1 million in 2013.
Whereas Africa remains the hardest-hit continent, with 1.1 million deaths in 2013, 1.5 million new infections, and 24.7 million people living with HIV, Rwanda has managed to keep the HIV prevalence rate as 3 per cent since 2005.
“We have one of the lowest rate of HIV infections on the continent – and this has been through strong health policies that advocate for voluntary testing and giving ample care to the sick,” Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the minister for health, said.
“Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV, but it is still transmitted through the same way. For children, it is through their parents and for adults; it is mainly through unprotected sex with an infected person. Therefore, continuous sensitisation is important.”
Ministry of Health statistics show that 115,044 adults and 7,896 children were on ARVs last year in Rwanda.
The number of ARV sites covering the country in the same period totaled to 476.
Unaids said focus should be put on 15 countries that accounted for three quarters of new infections, nine of which are from Africa. They include South Africa, Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.