South Africa: Kwazulu Natal - MSF Concerned About the Minimal Decline in Mortality Due to AIDS-Related Diseases Since 2014

Community health agent Babongile Luhlongwane who is one of the nearly 90 dedicated health workers who are taking HIV counseling and testing to the most remote parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is concerned about the minimal decline in mortality due to AIDS-related diseases since 2014 despite welcoming the progress made in the HIV fight especially with communities at the centre.

Responding to the 2019 Global Report on HIV Report, launched today in Eshowe, KwaZulu Natal by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), MSF calls on governments, ministries of health, partners and international organizations to step up efforts towards reducing the mortality of people living with HIV.

According to the UNAIDS Report, 770 000 people died of HIV worldwide in 2018, only a 30 000 reduction from 2017. Timely use of effective diagnostics tools and medicines could prevent most deaths. While an additional two million people are reported to be on antiretroviral therapy (ART), more needs to be done by all to confront the killer infections driving AIDS death such as tuberculosis and cryptococcal meningitis.

"In MSF supported hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Malawi and elsewhere, many deaths occur within 48 hours of admission, explains Dr Gilles Van Cutsem, leader of the MSF HIV/IADS Working Group. "Patients arrive very ill, often with severe opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, or Kaposi's sarcoma. When they arrive, sometimes it's too late to save them. They might not have been diagnosed on time, or failed to get access to a life-saving treatment."

Countries in West and Central Africa region in particular need acceleration but are facing a shortfall in international funding including for ART treatment scale up.

"We cannot celebrate or talk of success while hundreds of thousands continue to die of AIDS every year because they do not access basic HIV care, either because they live in countries that are neglected, because they are part of neglected population groups, or because of policies that chose to ignore them. Preventing, detecting and treating advanced HIV and AIDS, demands more attention and funding, especially in low coverage settings such as West and Central Africa, and in neglected populations.", adds Dr. Van Cutsem.

In 2016, the UN member states endorsed the goal of cutting AIDS deaths by 50% by 2020, to less than 500 000 per year. Six months to this deadline, this target is far from being achieved.

Note to editors:

Eshowe is a significant location for MSF as we have a project there, and UNAIDS has specifically chosen to launch its report in the first area in South Africa to achieve the UNAIDS-endorsed targets of 90-90-90. The report highlights the findings of an MSF survey presented during the recent SA AIDS Conference 2019 which showed that the project area surpassed the UNAIDS targets, with results of 90-94-95:

  • 90% of people living with HIV know their status
  • 94% of those were on antiretroviral treatment and,
  • 95% of those had suppressed viral load.

See MSF's related press release: https://www.msf.org.za/stories-news/press-releases/hiv-project-eshowe-south-africa-reaches-90-90-90-target-one-year-ahead

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