Hundreds of thousands of people with HIV are still dying every year – and it’s entirely preventable

Thanks to breakthroughs in medical science, HIV has been a manageable condition for more than 20 years.

Despite this, people are still dying from AIDS across the world in alarming numbers. According to UNAIDS, an estimated 680,000 people died from AIDS related illnesses in 2020 alone. It is thought that around 1.5 million people acquired the virus last year.

These deaths are entirely preventable – if everyone was diagnosed early and was able to access treatment, they could live long, happy lives.

Anne Aslett is chief executive at the Elton John AIDS Foundation. She says global inequalities mean that the AIDS epidemic is continuing across the world – even in an era where illness and death can be stopped.

“We were making enormous progress on the global AIDS epidemic – of course, COVID has thrown a massive bomb into the middle of that,” she tells PinkNews.

Antiretroviral medication came on stream in the 1990s, and it revolutionised the outlook for people diagnosed with HIV. Today, people on effective treatment can reduce the viral load in their bloodstream to an undetectable level, meaning they won’t develop AIDS and, crucially, they can’t pass the virus on – even through condomless sex.

The result is that HIV is not the death sentence it once was. Huge swathes of people who have HIV now have a full lifespan to look forward to – they can live well into old age, and it’s all thanks to antiretroviral treatment.

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