HIV Prevalence & Sustainable Development

HIV & Sustainable Development

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015 and are supposed to be met by the countries by 2030. Of the 17 SDGs, the 3rd one seeks to achieve “Good Health and Well-being”. HIV incidence rate is a major health indicator and comes in the domain of target 3.3 under this goal.

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What is the  HIV incidence rate?

 HIV incidence rate measures the number of people newly affected by HIV infections per 1000 uninfected population. In other words, the HIV incidence rate is the total number of new cases per 1000 people at risk in a specific period of time. It is calculated by dividing the estimated number of new HIV infections in a period by the number of total individuals at risk of getting affected by HIV infection. The purpose of this measure is to help experts monitor the trends of the AIDS epidemic, track the progress of SDG 3.3 as well as the dynamics within a population.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

People often get confused between these 2 terms and consider them synonymous. However, that’s not the case. HIV is the name of a virus that can attack the human immune system. So, when a person becomes a victim of this virus, he is said to be affected by HIV or HIV positive. AIDS is a disease that occurs when the immune system is severely damaged by HIV. So, what is HIV today can turn into AIDS tomorrow if the proper measures are not adopted. If left untreated, HIV typically becomes AIDS in about 8 to 10 years.

The target

The target SDG 3.3.promises to end the epidemics of diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and many other such diseases by 2010.

An overview of worldwide HIV incidence rate

As per the of WHO  & Averts:

  1. HIV is an important global health issue that has snatched away about 36.3 million lives till date.
  2. In 2020 itself, about 1.5 million people were affected by HIV.
  3. Has there been any progress or decline in the number of HIV cases? Yes, in the previous, new HIV infections worldwide have declined by 31%, from 2.1 million in 2010 to 1.5 million in 2020. Since 2010, new HIV cases among children have also fallen by 53%. It was from 320,000 in 2010 and became 150,000 in 2020.
  4. The maximum number of individuals living with HIV are in the low- and middle-income countries. In the list of HIV-affected regions, East and Southern Africa come at the top with 6,70,000 new HIV cases in 2020.
  5. Most of the regions witnessed a decrease in new HIV infections by some proportion between 2010 and 2020.
  • 37% decrease in Western and Central Europe and North America (67,000 new cases in 2020)
  • 28% decrease in the Caribbean region (13,000 new cases in 2020)
  • 43% decrease in East Europe and Central Asia (1,40,000 new cases in 2020)
  • 21% decrease in the Asia Pacific region (2,40,000 new cases in 2020)
  • 7% decrease in the Middle East and North Africa (16,000 new cases in 2020)
  • 43% in East and Southern Africa (6,70,000 new cases in 2020)
  • 37% decrease in Western and Central Africa (2,00,000 new cases in 2020)
  • 0% decrease in Latin Africa (1,00,000 new cases in 2020)

The number of new cases as of 2020 is the lowest in the Caribbean region. Though East and Southern Africa are one of the regions with the highest proportionate decline in the new cases of HIV, its absolute number of new cases is still the highest due to its considerably large population.

Group wise incidence rate:

Groups that are most vulnerable to HIV infections include sex workers, transgenders, gay men, people who inject drugs, prisoners, and men having sexual intercourse with other men. These groups consisted of 65% of new adult HIV infections in 2019.

As per Stanford, Avert, Academic group, Times of India & WHO following are major causes and risk factors of HIV

  1. Unprotected sexual intercourse (unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person with acute HIV infection has a transmission risk of up to 2-20%)
  2. Injection of drugs (People injecting drugs are 22 times more exposed to HIV than the general population)
  3. Sharing of contaminated needles and syringes (Estimations say that up to 160 000 HIV infections each year are attributable to these practices).
  4. Transfusions of bloods (As per the estimates of The National AIDS Control Organisation, about 1,342 people across India have got HIV infection due to blood transfusion in 2018-19)
  5. Pregnancy, delivery, and breast-feeding, in case the mother is HIV-positive (with no preventative steps, the risk of HIV transmission during childbirth, pregnancy and breastfeeding is estimated as high as 15-45%)

Factors that increase the vulnerability to acquiring HIV

  1. Poverty and hunger
  2. Lack of quality education
  3. Gender inequality
  4. Lack of economic growth
  5. Unsafe urban living conditions, mainly for people staying in slums

UNAID observes that poverty-stricken conditions, hunger, lack of literacy leads to a lack of people’s awareness and negatively affect their ability to prevent or mitigate the effects of HIV. Gender inequalities and discrimination lead to violence against women and harmful practices like marrying girls off at a minor age and exposing them to unprotected sex, injecting them with drugs, etc. HIV is the main cause of death among women of the reproductive age group (15–44 years). Lack of economic growth also leads to a shortage of facilities for treating HIV. And of course, improper urbanization such as the growth of the slum population is highly responsible for making humans vulnerable to HIV.

Treatment and prevention

Firstly, the very origin of HIV can be prevented by trying to get rid off the risk factors in the following ways:

  1. Usage of protection during sexual intercourse
  2. Diagnosis and counseling if symptoms for HIV is visible
  3. Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) (A WHO and UNAIDS recommendation,  VMMC is a surgical process to remove the foreskin to decrease males’ exposure to HIV due to heterosexual intercourse)
  4. Reduction of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV by providing necessary medical care to pregnant women.

Treatment of HIV can be done by the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). These are FDA-approved multiple drugs for controlling HIV infection. This antiretroviral therapy does not fully cure HIV infection but can treat it by halting the viral replication within a victim’s body. It lets an individual’s immune system recover and regains lost strength. This treatment measure is WHO recommended and 187 countries have already adopted this ART technique as per the recommendation to treat its HIV patients. As of 2021, ART has reached 28.2 million HIV-affected people across the world.

Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS)

This joint initiative of the United Nations with its 11 system organizations to make joint efforts for an AIDS or HIV-free world deserves a mention here. Its aim is to work for global progress in order to touch the country set targets for global access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and to stop the spread of HIV, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development goals. The cosponsors or the participating organizations in this noble venture include World Health Organization, World Food Programme, World Bank, International Labour Organization, and so on.

It is high time that efforts must begin at the individual level to reduce HIV-incidence rates worldwide to make sure that we lead a happy and healthy life and don’t lag behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

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