The United Nations envisions a world without AIDS — and it's aiming to make that a reality by ending the epidemic by 2030.
The presidents of Ghana and Switzerland, in conjunction with UNAIDS, unveiled a new program on Thursday night in conjunction with the meeting of the UN General Assembly. The new campaign is titled "Fast Track," and it aspires to stamp out AIDS definitively during the next 16 years.
"Achieving an AIDS-free generation will pose an incredible test, but I am certain we can pass that test and see this fight across finish line," Secretary of State John Kerry said at the conference.
UNAIDS is focused on expanding access to HIV treatment and prevention programs in order to reduce new HIV infections from 2.1 million in 2010 to 200,000 in 2030. A critical element of the human rights program is to provide those who are most vulnerable to infection —including sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and intravenous drug users — with access to services that are free of discrimination.
While HIV can affect anyone in any place across the globe, there were 30 countries that accounted for more than 80% of all new infections in 2013. Last year, South Africa had the largest number of new HIV infections — 16% of the world's total. Next in line were Nigeria with 10 %, Uganda with 7%, and India with 6%. The U.S. accounted for 2% of all new infections, among the highest of all developed countries and comparable to infection rates in Cameroon, Malawi, and Brazil.
During the next five years, Fast Track hopes to help the most affected countries pinpoint locations and populations where there are higher prevalences of HIV and to speed up the delivery of health services to them.
"The United States’ commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS is as undiminished as our work is unfinished," Kerry said. "Our commitment has only been strengthened by the progress we’ve made and the lives we’ve saved."
Kerry touted the success of the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), America's global program to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS. Last year, Obama announced that PEPFAR had exceeded its goal: 6.7 million people are now receiving life-saving treatment. In addition, more than 1 million babies have been born HIV-free because of PEPFAR’s support. The U.S. has pledged an additional $500 million to support children, young women, and vulnerable populations through the initiative.
"Every one of these babies can now grow up happy and healthy, go to school, contribute to the workforce, and realize their dreams," Kerry said.
He added that achieving an HIV-free generation is a closer reality than ever before. While the UNAIDS announcement spurred overwhelming optimism, tough work still lies ahead.
"We now have to complete the task to end the era of AIDS — period," Kerry said.