Cairo, 27 November 2013 – Not even one in five people living with HIV in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in need of treatment is actually receiving it. The number of people living with HIV and receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the Region has increased over the past five years. However, the number of new infections is increasing at a faster pace. In addition, the majority of people living with HIV do not know that they have acquired the infection because they have never taken the HIV test. Even when they have been diagnosed, they are not always linked to care and treatment and may lose contact with the health system for many years. By the time they return, they may already be sick and treatment may be less effective.
To address this alarming situation, the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean launches, on the occasion of World Aids Day, a new regional campaign to expand access to good quality treatment and care.
“Treat More, Treat Better”, is the slogan of the campaign which aims at expanding access to ART.
This is in line with the global theme “Getting to Zero: Zero new infections. Zero deaths from AIDS-related illness. Zero discrimination”.
The campaign is “a plea to all of us, governments, civil society groups, technical partners and donors to redouble our efforts to rapidly expand access to good quality HIV treatment and care services”, said Dr Ala Alwan, Regional Director, WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. It comes in the context of the regional initiative to End the HIV Treatment Crisis which was launched by Dr Alwan in January 2013.
To Treat More people living with HIV, WHO urges partners to expand access to treatment to ensure that all people who need it actually receive it, regardless of their age, gender, risk behaviour, race or any other reason. There is a need to reach out to those most at risk, and to address stigma and discrimination in health care settings. To Treat Better, WHO stresses the need to use more potent, less toxic, and easy-to-take medicines and to ensure better monitoring of patients’ response to treatment.
People living with HIV can lead normal lives if they are tested, treated and maintained in quality lifelong care and treatment. At the individual level, HIV treatment delays the progression of the disease, prolongs life and improves its quality. It is also important for prevention. HIV treatment is proven to be cost-effective, and reduces the risk of onward transmission and the number of new infections.
“HIV treatment works”, emphasized Dr Alwan. “I am certain that with strong ownership, political will and the right policies and strategies in place, countries can treat more, and treat better.”