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HIV and AIDS

Background: HIV and AIDS


Paper figures with red ribbons

It is more than 30 years since the discovery of the human immuno­deficiency virus (HIV) and it has now spread across the whole of the world. Today some 36.9 million people are estimated to be carrying the HI virus. Very many of those affected live in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where some 25.8 million people were infected in 2014. The disease is not only a disaster in human terms, but in social and economic terms too, and jeopardises sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in the coun­tries affected.

In coun­tries with high infection rates, HIV affects the whole of the popu­la­tion. Due to biological, economic, social and cultural factors, women and girls are at par­tic­u­lar­ly high risk of contracting HIV. That is why it is im­por­tant to take account of their special needs when it comes to HIV prevention. It is also they who are worst affected by the negative conse­quences of the epidemic, as they are the ones who tend to the sick and look after AIDS orphans.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans­gender, trans­sexual and inter­sexual people, migrants, injecting drug users and sex workers are at considerable risk of HIV infection. These groups are often also the victims of discrimination, which makes it more difficult for them to access preventive measures and treatment.

Initial success

A muslim woman in Sudan educates about the use of condoms. Copyright: Neil Thomas/IRINContaining HIV and AIDS is one of the biggest challenges currently facing de­vel­op­ment policy. However, in­ter­national efforts have in recent years led to encouraging initial successes that show that it is possible to slow down the spread of the HIV epidemic. Since the year 2000, the number of new infec­tions dropped by 35 per cent: in 2014, 2 million people were infected with HIV, compared to 3.1 million in 2000. The number of AIDS-related deaths in Africa has fallen by one third within the space of six years. At the same time, the level of care provided to those who are infected with HIV or are suffering from AIDS has markedly improved. Over the past decade the number of HIV-posi­tive people receiving a combination therapy has risen from 300,000 to 15 million (2015).

Outlook: What does the future hold?

One of the goals declared by the in­ter­national com­mu­ni­ty at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 is to have halted, by 2015, and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. Germany is committed to achieving this in­ter­national goal, which was defined as Millennium De­vel­op­ment Goal (MDG) 6.

As long as immunisation is not an option and as long as an HIV infection can only be treated but not cured, prevention will remain the most im­por­tant instrument for halting the epidemic’s spread. New studies show that treating those infected with HIV with medicines that slow down viral replication reduces the number of new infections.

Two tablets for antiretroviral therapy in a palm of the hand of an AIDS patient. Copyright: Eva-Lotta Jansson/IRINAppropriate measures should all be incorporated into an overarching national strategy com­pris­ing both prevention and the provision of care and support to those living with AIDS. Germany cooperates closely with its in­ter­nation­al partners on im­ple­ment­ing such strategies. It is par­tic­u­lar­ly im­por­tant to include those people and groups affected by HIV and AIDS in shaping and implementing these strategies.

It will, however, only be possible to sustainably contain HIV and AIDS if we succeed in bringing about fundamental changes to the lives of those living in poor coun­tries, including through reducing pov­er­ty, strengthening human rights, improving people’s level of education and making health care systems more effective.

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