With over 7,400 new HIV infections daily, comprehensive approaches – including condom use – are essential to stop the spread of the AIDS epidemic, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said Wednesday, warning that there is no “single magic bullet” for prevention.
“Condoms are an essential part of combination prevention,” which also includes access to HIV information and treatment, waiting longer to become sexually active, reducing multiple partners and concurrent relationships, ensuring human rights and reducing stigma, the agency said in a press statement.
“An HIV prevention approach based solely on one element does not work and can hinder the AIDS response,” UNAIDS stressed. “There is no single magic bullet for HIV prevention.”
It appealed to nations to use a mix of behavioural, biomedical and structural HIV prevention actions to meet anti-disease needs.
Countries must understand the epidemic and tailor their response accordingly, the agency said, calling on nations to use all human rights-grounded approaches that are informed by evidence.
The most recent UNAIDS report on the global scourge shows how significant increases in HIV prevention and treatment efforts are producing results in several countries.
Condom use among young people with multiple partners is gaining momentum in some nations hardest hit by HIV, including Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.
Sub-Saharan Africa is still the most heavily HIV-affected region in the world, with some 22 million people living with the disease, and the region accounting for two-thirds of all people living with HIV and for three-quarters of deaths from AIDS.
Last week, UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibé said that even in the face of the current global economic turmoil, investing in AIDS responses is crucial to prevent 1.3 million deaths in the next two years, highlighting how the agency’s top priority is to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
“Universal access means saving lives and restoring dignity to people,” Mr. Sidibé told reporters in Geneva.
It encompasses stopping mothers from dying and babies from being infected with the virus; stopping people living with HIV from dying of tuberculosis; and stopping drug users from becoming infected with HIV, he said.
During the financial crisis, “economic adjustments should be made with a human face in mind,” he stated, underscoring that a mother should not have to choose between receiving treatment and feeding her children.
Resources for responses to AIDS should be viewed as investments, and not expenditures, to avert 2.6 million new HIV infections and to put nearly 7 million people on a course of treatment, he told journalists at his first press conference since taking office as UNAIDS Executive Director.