Stephen Lewis weighs in on the 2010 UNAIDS Report and on the State of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

This past week UNAIDS released the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic. In it, UNAIDS highlights a number of key successes that seem to suggest that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has passed peak infection levels.  One statistic in particular has been drawing considerable media attention: New infections have dropped by 20% globally.

While this statistic is worth considerable celebration, a complex global epidemic is unfortunately not so easy to read, and significant challenges still lie ahead with regard to ensuring that there is a continued decrease in new infections from hereon out.  Part of this challenge lies in unpacking the data and continuing to dedicate considerable attention and capital to ensuring targets are met in an efficient, effective, and measurable manner;  the other part comes from celebrating our tremendous progress and continuing to passionately push for change.  Here are a few stats to consider that should provide a much needed jolt:

  • While there has been roughly a 20% decrease in new infections over the past decade, more than 7000 people are infected with the HIV virus each day.
  • For every one person who is put on treatment, there are two new infections.
  • While over 5 million people are receiving antiretroviral treatment, 30 million people are infected and 10 million are in immediate need of treatment.

Many of these issues were addressed by former UN Special Envoy for AIDS Stephen Lewis in a Globe and Mail article published Monday November 29th.  In it, Lewis succinctly highlights the need for a renewed commitment by the public and private sector alike in a time when funding for HIV/AIDS is “flat-lining” and even reducing in some cases.

“At the moment, the biggest single obstacle is resources, is the dollars. There’s just no question about that. We have made progress in providing treatment. We have various forms of prevention, from microbicides to male circumcision to behaviour change. We are working very hard, increasingly hard, with high-risk groups, like men having sex with men and sex workers and injecting drug users. There is a sense of some momentum as the application of treatment results in prevention…There are significant things happening; you sense that we might turn the tide on this pandemic. But now the resources are flat lining and reducing and that is incomprehensible. It’s just outrageous that the people of Africa in particular should be considered expendable because the donor countries will not honour their commitments.”

Lewis also addressed the Canadian Government’s negligible contribution in recent years to combating HIV/AIDS both at home, and abroad.  This critique included recent funding cuts for research, the Government’s lack of commitment and support for the recently established UNWomen, and a failure to combat HIV infection in First Nations communities.

Lewis will be elaborating on many of these issues in a CBC Radio One special entitled The Great Canadian Conversation about HIV/AIDS in Africa which airs at 8 PM on Monday November 29.  For details visit the Stephen Lewis Foundation or the Event page on Facebook.

Stephen Lewis is the Author of the Race Against Time: Searching for Hope in AIDS-Ravaged Africa and the Director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. To learn about other worthwhile books about HIV/AIDS, please read: 4 Essential Books about HIV and AIDS.


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Categories: Editorials and Reports, Health



  1. Medical Advances and Human Rights Abuses: HIV/AIDS in 2010 « Notes from the Field - January 7, 2011

    […] Stephen Lewis and the 2010 UNAIDS Global Report: Stephen Lewis weighs in on the 2010 UNAIDS Report and on the State of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic […]

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