On World AIDS Day, WHO called upon member states, partners and communities in the Southeast Asia Region and around the world to continue fostering collaboration to address the challenges in ending the disease by 2030 and empower communities to lead in shaping the response forward.
Globally, an estimated 39 million people are living with HIV. In 2022, around 1.3 million people acquired HIV and around 6,30,000 people died from AIDS-related causes, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
In the South-East Asia Region, an estimated 3.9 million people are living with HIV, accounting for around 10 per cent of the global burden.
In 2022, an estimated 1,10,000 people became newly infected with HIV and 85,000 people in the region died of AIDS-related causes. This accounted for over 13 per cent of the global burden of AIDS-related death, Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
Over the past decade, the Southeast Asia Region had substantial progress with a remarkable decline in both HIV and HIV-related deaths. The number of new HIV infections has halved from 2,00,000 in 2010 to 1,10,000 in 2022. Similarly, HIV-related deaths reduced to one-third from 2,30,000 in 2010 to 85,000 in 2022.
Across the region, almost 95 per cent of new HIV infections are among individuals at risk, including sex workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people and their partners, Singh said.
In 2022, approximately a quarter of new HIV infections in the region were among young people. In several countries in South-East Asia Region, nearly half of all new HIV infections were reported among young individuals, she said.
To accelerate ending AIDS, communities of individuals at risk of, living with and affected by HIV must be engaged more in shaping effective strategies and interventions.
Empowered communities are necessary in the implementation of the Integrated Regional Action Plan for viral hepatitis, HIV and sexually transmitted infection, she said.
"WHO is calling for action in several key areas. Policymakers and programme managers should welcome initiatives and ensure meaningful engagement of key populations, community organizations and people living with HIV in advocacy, service delivery, policy development, community level monitoring and evaluation to address barriers to quality services."
Communities, including the young population, should be proactively reached out by policymakers. Young people must step up into the leadership roles in designing, planning, budgeting and implementation of the HIV prevention and care programme, Singh said.
Countries should continue to reform laws, regulations and practices that enable stigma, discrimination, and exclusion, she said, adding that countries must invest in decentralised and integrated primary healthcare services for HIV, viral hepatitis, STI and other communicable and non-communicable diseases to deliver a people-centred service.
"Together, we must accelerate efforts in getting towards the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, 2030. On World AIDS Day, WHO reiterates its commitment to achieving a region and world in which AIDS is no longer a public health threat, leaving no individual, community or population behind," she stated.