Johannesburg - With new HIV infections having fallen by 33 percent since 2001, UNAids has estimated that the epidemic could be over by 2030.
On Monday, the UN agency released the 2013 global HIV/Aids report, which showed that new HIV infections among adults and adolescents fell by 50 percent or more in 26 countries between 2001 and 2012.
The report showed a 52 percent reduction in new HIV infections among children over the same period and that Aids-related deaths had fallen by 30 percent since the 2005 peak.
But the report showed that South Africa’s HIV prevalence rate among adults aged 15 to 49 had increased to 17.9 percent of the total population from 17.3 percent in 2011 and the number of people living with HIV and Aids was estimated to have increased by a million to 6.1 million over the past decade.
However, South Africa stated in its global Aids response progress report submitted to UNAids that the number of people living with HIV increased by about 100 000 each year and there was a significant drop in the number of new infections among children.
Azar Jammine, the chief economist at Econometrix, said what these reports meant was that South Africa would have to carry on spending on HIV-related initiatives and treatment and possibly add more.
“Otherwise we’ll undo all the work that has been done in the past couple of years. A lot of work will have to be done between now and 2030 that UNAids is forecasting,” Jammine said.
The estimated HIV prevalence rate among South Africa’s partners in the Brics bloc was less than 1 percent among adults aged 15 to 49. China’s prevalence rate was estimated at less than 0.1 percent, Brazil’s at 0.4 percent and India’s 0.3 percent. Russian figures were not available.
UNAids deputy executive director Luis Loures said last week that even though HIV/Aids would continue to exist as a case here and there, it would not be at the epidemic level it was at today. The report on Monday further supported this forecast. Even South Africa’s progress report cited data from population-based surveys of pregnant women which suggested the HIV epidemic had reached a plateau.
But forecasts that HIV/Aids would no longer be an epidemic by 2030 suggest financial repercussions for pharmaceutical firms supplying treatments.
South Africa’s antiretroviral (ARV) treatment tender programme is the largest of its kind in the world and tenders have been awarded by the state to a number of pharmaceutical firms, including Aspen, Mylan, Adcock Ingram and Cipla.
The largest ARV supplier to the government, Aspen, has more than 10 drugs in its basket of ARV treatments and provides ARVs to about 600 000 HIV/Aids patients across Africa.
Stavros Nicolaou, a senior executive at Aspen, said even if the epidemic was over by 2030, the ARV market would continue to grow because as it is, only half the number of people eligible for the treatments in sub-Saharan Africa currently had access to the drugs.
“There are 35.3 million infected with HIV who will need treatment at some stage. It’s not going to be a market that shrinks. If anything, the concern will be whether we have enough capacity,” he said.
The UNAids report showed that 2 million adults in South Africa were on the ARV treatment while 2.5 million needed the drugs. Globally, only 34 percent of the 28.3 million people eligible for ARV treatment in 2013 had access to it.
One analyst said he was not convinced by the prediction that HIV/Aids would stop being an epidemic.
“Forecasts are not 100 percent accurate and the fact is HIV is easily transmitted. You can confidently forecast decreasing mother-to-child transmission but adult-to-adult transmission projections are not definite,” he said.
He said given this, and subsequently the demand for ARV treatment, it was not easy to say if there would be a meaningful impact on pharmaceutical companies. - Business Report