Fostering Collaboration on AIDS

On World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently urged member states, partners, and communities in the South-East Asia Region and globally to continue fostering collaboration to address the challenges of ending AIDS by 2030 and empowering communities to lead in shaping the response forward.
Globally, an estimated 39 million people are living with HIV. In 2022, approximately 1.3 million people acquired HIV, and around 630,000 people died from AIDS-related causes. In the South-East Asia Region, an estimated 3.9 million people are living with HIV, accounting for around 10% of the global burden. In 2022, an estimated 110,000 people became newly infected with HIV, and 85,000 people in the region died due to AIDS-related causes, representing over 13% of the global burden of AIDS-related death.
Over the past decade, the South-East Asia Region has made substantial progress, with a remarkable decline in both HIV and HIV-related deaths. The number of new HIV infections has halved from 200,000 in 2010 to 110,000 in 2022, and similarly, HIV-related deaths reduced to one-third from 230,000 in 2010 to 85,000 in 2022. In 2022, 65% of people living with HIV were receiving lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART), compared to only 17% in 2010. In 2019, Maldives and Sri Lanka were validated to have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis, a feat Thailand achieved in 2016—the first country in Asia to do so.
By the end of 2022, 81% of people in the region living with HIV knew their status, 65% were on ART and 61% were virally suppressed. Despite this progress, the region needs to accelerate efforts to ensure more people are reached and have access to services, aiming for 95% of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) to be aware of their HIV status, 90% on ART, and 86% with a suppressed viral load by 2025.
Continued challenges exist in ensuring outreach to the most vulnerable populations. Across the region, almost 95% of new HIV infections are among individuals at risk, including sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people, and their partners. In 2022, approximately a quarter of new HIV infections in the region were among young people, with several countries reporting nearly half of all new HIV infections among the youth.
To accelerate the end of AIDS, communities of individuals at risk of, living with, and affected by HIV must be more engaged in shaping effective strategies and interventions. Empowered communities are crucial in the implementation of the Integrated Regional Action Plan for viral hepatitis, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections for 2022-2026.
The WHO is calling for action in several key areas. First, policymakers and program managers should welcome initiatives and ensure meaningful engagement of key populations, community organisations, and people, including youth and women living with HIV, in advocacy, service delivery, policy development, community-level monitoring, and evaluation to address barriers to quality services.
Second, communities, including the young population, should be proactively reached out to by policymakers. Young people must step up into leadership roles in designing, planning, budgeting, and implementing HIV prevention and care programs.
Third, countries should continue to reform laws, regulations, and practices that enable stigma, discrimination, and exclusion. The human rights of key populations and affected groups must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.
In this era of Universal Health Coverage by 2030, countries must invest in decentralised and integrated primary healthcare services for HIV, viral hepatitis, STIs, and other communicable and non-communicable diseases to deliver people-centred services and ultimately attain multi-disease control and elimination goals. Together, all must accelerate efforts to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030. On World AIDS Day, the WHO reiterates its commitment to achieving a region and world in which AIDS is no longer a public health threat, leaving no individual, community, or population behind.

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