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Sunday, April 14, 2024

UNAIDS sets target to decrease AIDS-related deaths to 250,000 by 2025

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As part of efforts to end AIDS as a public threat, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has set specific targets by 2025 concerning people who inject drugs.

UNAIDS under its Global AIDS Strategy 2021/2026 sets an overall target to reduce annual AIDS-related deaths to fewer than 250,000 by 2025.

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This was revealed in a new report by UNAIDS titled: “Global AIDS Targets 2025 for People Who Use Drugs,” noting that in 2014, available data shows that people who inject drugs were still being left behind in the HIV response.

As of 2022, according to the report, global median HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs was 5 per cent across 50 reporting countries, seven times higher than among the rest of the adult population, aged 15 to 49.

It noted that in 16 countries with gender-disaggregated data, the reported median HIV prevalence among men who inject drugs was 9 per cent, while it nearly doubled (15 per cent) among women who inject drugs.

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Effects of criminalising drug use

The report highlighted that in 2022, 630,000 deaths were AIDS-related while in 2019, nearly half a million people died from drug-related causes, with 15 per cent attributed to HIV.

It noted that so far, at least 145 countries have criminalised the possession of small amounts of drugs; 47 countries report implementing compulsory detention, while 34 countries retain the death penalty in law for drug offences.

According to UNAIDS, despite criminalisation of drugs for personal use in 143 countries, many drug users remain invisible, with little data on access to services or experiences of stigma, discrimination or violence which makes it difficult to plan and implement programmes to monitor their progress.

“While criminalisation of drug possession for personal use persists, and as long as harm reduction services remain unavailable and underfunded, it will not be possible to end AIDS as a public health threat,” it said.

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Other factors, prevention

The report observed stigmatisation and discrimination towards drug users have also contributed to their hiding.

“In eight of 14 countries that recently reported data to UNAIDS, more than 10 per cent of people who inject drugs avoided accessing health care services due to stigma and discrimination in the past 12 months,” it noted.

The report disclosed that only 37 per cent of people who inject drugs were reported as receiving at least two HIV prevention services in the past three months from the reporting states.

It further revealed that more than 50 per cent of people who are opioid dependent have access to Opioid Agonist Maintenance Therapy (OAMT), while 90 per cent of people who inject drugs have access to comprehensive harm reduction services linked to hepatitis C, HIV and mental health services.

Recommendations

UNAIDS noted that to achieve the Global AIDs Strategy 2021-2026 there must be a change in public health approach for drug users.

It outlined some strategies needed which are aligned with WHO’s evidence-based and prioritised package of interventions for people who inject drugs.

These strategies include specific targets for people who inject drugs, and concerning prevention, testing, and treatment, societal enablers and community-led responses.

UNAIDS added that to meet 2030 targets, US$ 2.7 billion which is 89 per cent of the resources would be needed for interventions to lower- and middle-income countries

It noted that US$3.1 billion (11 per cent of total estimated resource needs for the HIV response) per year is needed for enablers, including programmes addressing human rights; policy dialogue; reduction of stigma, discrimination and gender-based violence; and HIV-related legal services.

“Protect and promote the human rights of people who use drugs by treating them with dignity, providing equal access to health and social services, and by decriminalising drug use/consumption and the possession, purchase, and cultivation of drugs for personal use,” UNAIDS noted.

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