HIV remains a pressing public health issue despite the progress achieved in diagnosis, prevention, and treatment over the years, the World Health Organisation said, ahead of World AIDS Day (December 1).

Globally about 9.2 million people do not have access to HIV treatment. Each day 1,700 lives are lost from HIV-related causes, and 3,500 people are infected, with many not knowing their status or having access to treatment, the UN health agency said.

Recognising the role of community organisations in the global response to HIV, the WHO said, “From fighting stigma and discrimination, to advocating for access to affordable interventions, and community-led services… communities have shaped the HIV response for decades.”

“The affected communities who fought for tools to prevent, test and treat HIV enabled 30 million people to access antiretroviral therapy, and helped to avert an unknowable number of infections. We stand together with communities to help end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection attacks the body’s immune system. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of the disease.

Seven years to go

Innovations such as a powerful once-a-day pill for HIV treatment and accessible viral load testing have enabled significant progress, the WHO said. “The fact that people living with HIV, who take their HIV treatment as prescribed and have no virus detectable in their blood, have zero risk of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners, is just one such example,” the WHO explained.

But with less than seven years to reach the 2030 end-goal, there is an urgent need for continued funding for HIV programmes to ensure community leaders can continue reaching those affected, the agency said. “These efforts are essential to close the gaps in diagnosis and treatment for children living with HIV, and help all countries move closer to the 95-95-95 targets, which aim for 95 per cent of people living with HIV knowing their status, 95 per cent of those diagnosed receiving antiretroviral therapy, and 95 per cent of those on treatment having suppressed viral loads,” it added.