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Living with HIV: The prevalent pandemic which is no longer considered a pandemic

June 19, 2023

Can the HIV pandemic ever be ended, and can UK healthcare providers and planners ever be confident they are winning the battle until HIV is defeated globally?


While COVID-19 was declared a pandemic after just a few months and can now be considered under control, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has lasted over four decades and has killed millions worldwide. Despite its global impact, HIV is seldom called a "pandemic," and it's crucial to recognize that until the global community works together to control and eventually eradicate HIV, the battle against this virus cannot be won.


The global health agenda must prioritize addressing HIV as a pandemic and work towards its eradication to achieve a healthier future for all, including countries with advanced healthcare systems like the UK.


Global History of HIV


Over four decades, during which over 40.1 million people have died worldwide, while 38.4 million currently have HIV. While the UK has made significant progress in HIV treatment and public health strategy, poverty, deprivation, exploitation, prejudice, and discrimination still prevent many worldwide from accessing the care they need.


Despite the high death toll, the WHO refers to HIV as an epidemic rather than a pandemic, possibly because it no longer kills many people in wealthy countries. The majority of annual HIV/AIDS-related deaths happen outside the West, particularly in Africa, where nearly one in every 25 adults live with HIV. The United Nations has committed to eradicating the AIDS epidemic by 2030, but almost three-quarters of a million people die every year from the virus globally, highlighting the urgent need for greater access to testing and treatment.


How near are we to these global targets?


While some targets have been met, such as reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, only 68% of people living with HIV are virally suppressed globally, indicating significant work remains to be done. The UK has played a crucial role in shaping the agenda towards eliminating HIV as a global health problem, but it must continue to invest in research, prevention, and treatment programs at home and abroad to achieve this goal by 2030. The UK should lead the agenda through strong commitment, innovative strategies, and influential partnerships, addressing the social, structural, and economic determinants of HIV to create an equitable global response to the pandemic.