A hopeful announcement out of the United Nations today: It may be possible to stop the global AIDS epidemic by 2030, according to a new report released today by UNAIDS.
“There are multiple reasons why there is hope and conviction about this goal,” the report said. One of them is that the disease isn’t spreading as quickly as it used to: 2013 saw 2.1 million new HIV infections, a 38 percent drop from 3.4 million new infections in 2001. Among children, the decline was even steeper, thanks in large part to the use of antiretroviral medicines among HIV-positive pregnant women.
It isn’t killing as quickly as it used to, either: AIDS-related deaths have declined by 35 percent over the past decade, from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.5 million in 2013.
But the statistics aren’t all sunshine, and the report also identifies some pretty significant challenges to address. There are currently 35 million people worldwide living with HIV, for example, but 19 million—that’s more than half—aren’t aware that they’re infected. And while antiretroviral use is on the rise, the drugs are still being taken only by 37 percent of infected people.
It’s important to note, though, that ending the epidemic is not the same as ending the disease—the 2030 targets are focused on containing AIDS, rather than eradicating AIDS. The UNAIDS plan is not a magical roadmap to wiping the HIV virus off of the planet within the next 16 years, but rather a guide to drastically halting its spread. “HIV, the virus, will probably exist for a long time,” the report says, “but its impact can be nullified by aggressively implementing HIV prevention and treatment options.”