World Aids Day Q&A: Discrimination still prevents access to life-saving care

AP - Aijaz Rahi

More than 40 years after its onset, Aids remains a major public health issue. Sharon Lewin, president of the International Aids Society (IAS), explains that while there is still no vaccine or cure, effective antiretroviral treatments exist. The challenge now is to make them available to everyone.

RFI: What has changed for AIDS patients in recent years?

Sharon Lewin: HIV is still a global pandemic. There are 37 million people living with HIV, 1.5 million new infections every year and 600,000 deaths.

So there is still a very significant HIV problem globally.

What has changed is the availability of anti-viral treatments, which effectively restores health and allows people to live a normal life with a normal life expectancy.

And anti-viral therapy is available to 70 percent of people living with HIV.

RFI: So the challenge now is to make it easier to access these treatments?

SL: The goal of the global community is to make that available to 95 percent of the world's population.

We still don't have a vaccine and we don't have a cure.

So once people are on treatment, they need to take it for life. We have great treatments and 70 percent of people can access them.

For the other 30 percent? We know that in many countries there is still stigma and discrimination and criminal laws against people who are at risk of HIV.

RFI: What obstacles still remain?

SL: I think access to health care is very mixed, depending on which country you live in.

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