A new report on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic celebrates the “extraordinary progress” in both treatment and prevention over the past 15 years.
The United Nations Aids agency says the goal to get HIV treatment to 15 million people by the end of 2015 has already been met.
The landmark figure was reached in March – nine months ahead of schedule.
It follows decades of global efforts and investment to get antiretroviral drugs to those in need – such as people living in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report reveales that people living with the HIV virus today can expect to live nearly two decades longer than those who were diagnosed at the start of this century.
This news comes about as a result of access to cheaper and more readily available antiretroviral drugs.
The UN says in the report that so much has changed about AIDS a disease once seen by many as a death sentence to be endured in secrecy.
The average HIV-positive person is now expected to live for 55 years – 19 years longer than in 2001.
In 2000, when the UN first set goals to combat HIV, fewer than 700,000 people were receiving these vital medicines.
According to UN Aids, the global response to HIV has averted 30 million new HIV infections and nearly eight million Aids-related deaths since the millennium.
Over the same time frame, new HIV infections have fallen from 2.6 million per year to 1.8 million, and Aids-related deaths have gone down from 1.6 million to 1.2 million.
Meanwhile, global investment in HIV has gone up from £3.1bn ($4.8bn) in 2000 to more than £13bn ($20bn) in 2014.
The flip side is that many more gains are needed if the world hopes to meet the UNAIDS goal of “ending” the global epidemic by 2030, which the agency defines as reducing new HIV infections and AIDS deaths by 90% from today’s numbers.
In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 70% of the adults have never had an HIV test, and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North
Africa saw increases of more than 25% in new HIV infections between 2000 and 2014. The report estimates that the world will need to spend $8 billion to $12 billion more each year by 2020.
The report decries the persistence of a “punitive legal environment” in many countries, including 76 that criminalize same-sex sexual acts (punishable by death in seven locales).
In 17 countries, foreigners can be deported if they test positive for HIV. Five countries, all in the Middle East, bar entry to HIV-infected people.