July 16, 2019 | Funding the Fight


New UNAIDS Report Shows Backsliding and Broken Promises in the Global AIDS Response

Asia Russell (Health GAP): 1 267 475 2645 | asia@healthgap.org

(Eshowe, South Africa)—UNAIDS released new data regarding the state of the global AIDS response today, showing that the global target of reducing both new HIV infections and AIDS deaths to 500,000 by 2020 will not be met without an aggressive acceleration in the provision of effective treatment and prevention. “Governments pledged in 2016 that they would defeat HIV as a global health threat by 2030. This report should come as a wake up call—the world is falling behind in the struggle against AIDS, at the very moment when scientific progress has delivered the tools that, if deployed at scale, would enable us to halt AIDS deaths and slash rates of new infections,” said Asia Russell, Executive Director of Health GAP. 

AIDS deaths declined by only 31,000 between 2017 and 2018, and the overall pace of mortality reduction has virtually stalled. AIDS deaths are increasing in two regions (Eastern Europe and Central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa). Despite important progress in East and Southern Africa in reducing new HIV infection rates and expanding life saving HIV treatment coverage, new infection rates are increasing in three regions—Latin America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa. 

The new report draws a stark contrast between negative trends, and the success stories of several regions and communities, such as that of the town of Eshowe (located in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, where UNAIDS launched the report). In KwaZulu Natal, 25% of people were living with HIV in 2016, but Eshowe achieved ambitious global targets of 90% of people with HIV knowing their status, 90% of people who know they are HIV positive being on treatment, and 90% of those people achieving suppression of viral load (the ’90-90-90’ targets) ahead of the 2020 deadline. 

“The remarkable progress in Eshowe should be the rule—but instead it is the exception,” said Maureen Milanga of Health GAP. “When there is sufficient funding of community mobilization, evidence-based interventions, and defense of human rights, HIV can be defeated—Eshowe shows us that. Despite incontrovertible evidence that ending AIDS is possible, this once-in-a-generation opportunity is slipping from our grasp.”    

The report also shows more than half of new HIV infections are between key populations such as men who have sex with men, trans people, people who use drugs and sex workers, and their sex partners—populations that are routinely subjected to criminalization, violence, and discrimination. The pace of treatment acceleration slowed in 2018 as well—on average, 2 million people per year have started treatment in recent years, but treatment scale-up must accelerate to 3.3 million per year in order to achieve global targets. 

By 2018, world leaders pledged to ensure 1.6 million HIV positive children would have access to HIV treatment—they have failed dismally to deliver on this promise—only 940,000 children are on treatment. There has been a mere 41% decline in new HIV infections among children since 2010—rather than the 95% reduction governments pledged to achieve.    

“$26.2 billion is needed by 2020 to deliver against global targets, but donors are breaking their funding promises—HIV funding declined by almost $1 billion in 2018,” said Brittany Herrick of Health GAP. “The world must mobilize the $7.2 billion needed to close this deadly funding gap.”

In a recent letter published by the Lancet, activists and academics argued that the next head of UNAIDS, to be selected in the coming months, must aggressively mobilize political will and increased funding to get the AIDS response on track.  



Health GAP is an international advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to affordable life saving medicines. Our team pairs pragmatic policy work with audacious grassroots action to win equitable access to treatment, care and prevention for people living with and affected by HIV worldwide. We are dedicated to eliminating barriers to universal access to affordable life sustaining medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS as key to a comprehensive strategy to confront and ultimately stop the AIDS pandemic. We believe that the human right to life and to health must prevail over the pharmaceutical industry’s excessive profits and expanding patent rights.