'dangerous Complacency' Feared As Aids Conference Opens

Henrietta Strickland
July 24, 2018

Thousands of delegates - researchers, campaigners, activists and people living with the killer virus - have arrived for the 22nd International AIDS Conference amid warnings that "dangerous complacency" may cause an unstoppable resurgence.

At an ongoing major world conference on AIDs, experts warned that the epidemic risks resurging and spiralling out of control unless billions of extra dollars are pumped into prevention and treatment.

"The biggest barriers now to ending the epidemic are ideologically and politically driven", said Bekker, who is president of the International AIDS Society, which sponsors the biennial conference.

And they lament that too fine a focus on virus-suppressing treatment has overshadowed basic prevention with the result that HIV is still spreading easily among the most vulnerable people.

The International Aids Conference is billed as the largest gathering on HIV and AIDS in the world, bringing together more than 15,000 scientists, activists, health providers, policy makers and global leaders.

And he warned the world "will not" meet United Nations 2020 targets on HIV/AIDS, "because there are too many places in the world where people don't get prevention and treatment services they need".

More than three decades of research have yet to yield a cure or vaccine for the AIDS-causing virus that has infected almost 80 million people since the epidemic burst onto the world scene in the early 1980s. Since 1992, the Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised more than $400 million to combat stigma, prevent infections, provide treatment and services, and motivate governments to end AIDS.

The 33-year-old said: "It is about being able to normalise the conversation around HIV because it is a virus you can live with now, which is different to many many years ago".

As a young person born with the virus, she said it's wondering to know that the tools exist to control HIV but at the same time saddening to know that many people can't employ those tools.

Describing his appeal as a "wake-up call" to the global community, Sidibé explained that "partial successes" in saving lives and stopping new infections some 1.4 million since 2010 had resulted in a lack of urgency among Member States.

In the lieu of declining donor and domestic funding, experts worry it is likely continue declining.

The gap between the need and supply of funding is nearly $7 billion now, the AFP cited the UNAIDS executive director Michael Sidibe as saying and he warned that if we do not pay now, we would have to pay more and more in the coming days.

The regions where prisoners are most affected by HIV are East and Southern Africa and West and Central Africa, both of which have a high HIV prevalence in the general population, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia and Western Europe, reflecting the over-representation of people who inject drugs in prison-a group with a high prevalence of HIV, a report in The Lancet in 2016 says.

A UNAIDS report last week said that new HIV infections, while down overall, were rising in about 50 countries.

NGOs at the conference are pushing a liberalization campaign entitled: "Just say no to the war on drugs", a direct challenge to the 1980s Reagan administration's "Just say no" message at the height of the "war on drugs".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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