N’DJAMENA, Chad — The Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé visited Chad in early August where he met with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, the First Lady and civil society. Sidibé acknowledged the strides Chad has made in responding to HIV, but there is still more that could be done.
In Chad, only 30 percent of people living with HIV are receiving antiretroviral treatment. A change must be put in place so that more people have access to treatment. Sidibé spoke about the importance of increasing HIV testing as a first step toward giving people who live with HIV a chance to access treatment for their own health and prevent new HIV infections.
Globally, it is estimated that only 54 percent of the 36.9 million people living with HIV know that they are living with the virus. This easily allows for new infections of the virus to flourish with the unknown.
In Chad, there are an estimated 210,000 people living with HIV. UNAIDS estimates that last year there were 12,000 AIDS-related deaths and 14,000 new HIV infections in the country.
Although he discussed the HIV treatment targets set for 2020, Sidibé urged Chad to adopt the UNAIDS Fast Track approach to end the AIDS epidemic in Chad by 2030.
The new Fast Track Cities Initiative aims to help make the UNAIDS goal of 90-90-90 targets a reality in the highest burden cities. The UNAIDS target is the 90 percent of people with HIV should know their status, 90 percent of these individuals should be on antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 90 percent of these should have undetectable viral mode.
With mathematical modeling, the HIV/AIDS pandemic could be eliminated by 2030. This elimination is defined as a greater than 90 percent decrease in disease burden including incidence, morbidity and mortality.
While 15 million people with HIV are now on ART, more than 20 million people remain untreated and therefore are at risk of disease progression and onward transmission of the virus. Global access to ART has expanded from thousands of people in 2000 to millions today, but treatment coverage is still uneven.
According to the latest UNAIDS report, “Access to ART has a direct impact on an individual’s risk of death, and the country where one lives has a significant impact on death rates and life expectancy. In some lower income countries, people living with HIV have 10 to 20 times higher death rates than those living in some higher income countries.”
HIV/AIDS is on its way to being eliminated by 2030. However, open communication about the Fast Track Initiative and antiretroviral therapy must be spread to those in need of treatment. In addition to this approach, early testing can catch the virus early and prevent further infection.