July 15, 2015
Written by Mark Anderson
This post originally appeared on The Guardian here.
People living with the HIV virus today can expect to live nearly two decades longer than those who were diagnosed at the start of this century, thanks to cheaper and more readily available antiretroviral drugs, the UN said in a major report on a disease once seen by many as a death sentence to be endured in secrecy.
The average HIV-positive person is now expected to live for 55 years – 19 years longer than in 2001, according to the report by the UN’s Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAids).
A sharp drop in the price of antiretroviral drugs, which are used to combat the HIV virus, and vastly improved access to treatment are behind the progress, UNAids said. The world has met a UN target to give 15 million people access to antiretroviral drugs by 2015. Fewer than 700,000 people living with HIV had access to treatment in 2000, the report said.
“Reaching 15 million people with antiretroviral therapy is one of the greatest achievements in the history of global health, financing and development,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAids.
Since the 1983 discovery of HIV, the virus that causes Aids, a global campaign has brought together activists, celebrities and politicians to fight the virus.
But despite the increased access to treatment, experts have warned that Aids could make a dramatic comeback if governments don’t increase funding and expand access to drugs over the next five years. “We have a fragile five-year window. We have bent the Aids curve, but we haven’t broken it,” Sidibé said.