No AIDS by 2030

‘Ending AIDS by 2030’ is ‘possible’ for Bangladesh, UNAIDS Country Director Leo Kenny has said.And for that, on the eve of the World AIDS Day, he suggested that HIV programmes stress on four key elements – focus, scaling up, innovation and sustainability.World AIDS Day will be observed on Tuesday in Bangladesh as elsewhere in the worldTuesday will be the first World AIDS Day since the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) set the target of ‘ending AIDS by 2030’.It means that HIV incidence and AIDS-related deaths must come down to a level which will no longer represent a major health threat to any population or country.To measure this level, the World Health Organisation has set “90-90-90” targets.This means that in any country 90 percent of the people living with HIV must be detected, 90 percent of them must be under anti-retroviral drug therapy, and 90 percent of those on drugs must be virally suppressed.It is globally accepted that if a population can reach the ‘90-90-90’ targets, the three “Zeros” — zero AIDS deaths, zero discrimination, and zero new infections — will be achieved. Bangladesh is one of the four countries in South and South-East Asia where HIV prevalence is less than 0.1 percent of the total population.On Dec 1, 2014, there were 3,674 people living with HIV in Bangladesh as confirmed by the government. Of them, 563 have meanwhile died of AIDS.

The UNAIDS estimates the number differently. It says two-thirds of the estimated people living with HIV in Bangladesh are unaware of their HIV status due to a lack of adequate testing as well as treatment facilities and social stigma.Kenny said this group must be brought under the testing facilities as part of the getting ‘zeros’ to end AIDS by 2030.But, he said, the ‘business as usual’ approach would not work.“Scale up the current efforts of prevention, treatment, care and support in focused geographical locations or districts as identified by a higher concentration of key populations and people living with HIV, and by the prevalence of HIV.

“And integrate HIV case detection and referral efforts into existing government and private sector supported programs such as ante-natal care services, TB-DOTS centers, and upazila health complexes in the districts that border the neighbouring countries,” he suggested.Alongside these existing practices, Bangladesh must continue to make progress in addressing legal and social discrimination, he added.“This is a vital step towards ensuring access to sustained lifelong treatment for people living with HIV without having to face stigma and discrimination”.

He said, “We need to reduce AIDS-related deaths by establishing treatment as prevention.”He added that the government must understand that donors cannot be relied up on to provide continuous funding.“The government of Bangladesh must commit its own resources and explore how to anchor HIV and health financing in the social development agenda,” he said.Health Minister Mohammed Nasim is expected to inaugurate the national celebration of the AIDS Day in Dhaka.