Thirty years ago, I was one of the first foreign television reporters to report on AIDS in Africa. At that time, the disease was a death sentence. There was no effective treatment. But, at a speed that surprised quite a few in the medical profession, effective drugs began to appear, and, though still dangerous, the virus ceased to look all-conquering.
Now the United Nations says life expectancy of those with the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, has grown by 20 years since 2001, thanks to a sharp increase in access to effective drugs, the price of which have fallen dramatically. In 2000, the cost per year was $14,000. Now it is just $100.
In 2000, fewer than 700,000 of those with the virus were getting effective treatment. Now the figure is 15 million. The executive director of the UN’s AIDS programme, Michel Sidibé (pictured), describes this as ‘one of the greatest achievements in the history of global health.’
Not that everything in the garden is rosy. Up to 41.4 million are now infected by the virus, the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. So most are not getting access to treatment, and experts warn that if we do not invest more money, deaths will start increasing again.