UN: Global fight against AIDS is at ‘precarious point’

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have tested positive for HIV, and almost half of them have died of AIDS. (AFP)
Updated 18 July 2018

UN: Global fight against AIDS is at ‘precarious point’

  • ‘There are miles to go in the journey to end the AIDS epidemic. Time is running out’
  • Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have become infected with HIV

LONDON: Complacency is starting to stall the fight against the global AIDS epidemic, with the pace of progress not matching what is needed, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.
The United Nations’ HIV/AIDS body UNAIDS said in an update report that the fight was at a “precarious point” and while deaths were falling and treatment rates rising, rates of new HIV infections threatened to derail efforts to defeat the disease.
“The world is slipping off track. The promises made to society’s most vulnerable individuals are not being kept,” the report said. “There are miles to go in the journey to end the AIDS epidemic. Time is running out.”
Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, noted in the report’s foreword that there had been great progress in reducing deaths from AIDS and in getting a record number of people worldwide into treatment with antiretroviral drugs.
The report said an estimated 21.7 million of the 37 million people who have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS were on treatment in 2017, five and a half times more than a decade ago.
This rapid and sustained increase in people getting treatment helped drive a 34 percent drop in AIDS-related deaths from 2010 to 2017. AIDS deaths in 2017 were the lowest this century, at fewer than a million people, the report said.
But Sidibe also pointed to what he said were “crisis” situations in preventing the spread of HIV, and in securing sustained funding.
“The success in saving lives has not been matched with equal success in reducing new HIV infections,” he said. “New HIV infections are not falling fast enough. HIV prevention services are not being provided on an adequate scale ... and are not reaching the people who need them the most.”
Sidibe said a failure to halt new infections among children was a big worry.
“I am distressed by the fact that in 2017, 180,000 children became infected with HIV, far from the 2018 target of eliminating new HIV infections among children,” he wrote.
Data in the report showed that overall among adults and children worldwide, some 1.8 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2017.
Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, more than 77 million people have become infected with HIV. Almost half of them — 35.4 million — have died of AIDS.
The report said that at the end of 2017, $21.3 billion was available for the AIDS response in low- and middle-income countries. More than half of that came from domestic funding sources rather than international donors. UNAIDS estimates that $26.2 billion will be needed to fund the AIDS fight in 2020.
“There is a funding crisis,” Sidibe said. While global AIDS resources rose in 2017, there was still a 20 percent shortfall between what is needed and what is available.
Such a shortfall will be “catastrophic” for countries that rely on international assistance to fight AIDS, Sidibe said.


Grubs up: Veganism trend soaring among young Saudis

Updated 05 December 2019

Grubs up: Veganism trend soaring among young Saudis

  • Research shows that plant-based diets help lower body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels

JEDDAH: Although vegans are facing daily stereotypes regarding their dietary habits, the number of young people in the Kingdom shifting to an animal-free diet is rising.

The trend has been attributed to Saudis’ health concerns, especially with obesity. 

Research has revealed that more than 40 percent of Saudi citizens are obese. 

Online awareness campaigns are helping vegans to share their experiences with their eating habits. Several young Saudis were convinced to follow plant-based diets after watching the “Plant B” program during Ramadan. 

The show is a bilingual web series starring Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian surgeon. It explained the importance and the benefit of veganism on human health.  

The number of restaurants and home businesses that are serving vegan options are increasing every day.  

Raneem Al-Qurashi, 17, is a student and owner of the Nabati online business. She turned to veganism two years ago. She said: “I used to eat a generally healthy diet. So, when I turned vegan, I did not feel much of a difference. However, I did feel a lot lighter after meals, since meat takes a long time to digest. 

“I started this business out of my own needs for healthy vegan baked goods in Jeddah, about a year ago, there were little to no vegan options in Jeddah, and even if there were, it was usually overpriced.”

Young Saudis are increasingly becoming health conscious and adopting a healthy lifestyle to stay fit. (Photos/Supplied)

Al-Qurashi believes that veganism and plant-based diets are growing in Saudi Arabia. People have become more aware and conscious about their decisions and how it might affect their health, environment and animals.

Jawan Kudus, a 32-year-old entrepreneur and the founder of Raw Instinct, is vegan in her diet, but she has to try non-vegan dishes for culinary purposes, to acquire knowledge of new tastes and combinations. She started her vegan journey in 2009, while she was studying in London.

Kudus said: “I discovered the raw food diet and fell in love with it, it was like a breakthrough in my life. I learned to eat superfoods without sacrificing taste. Then I explored cooked vegan dishes and continued to experiment in the kitchen. It really transformed the way I eat and approach my diet. I believe veganism helps you become your true and best version of yourself.”

Abdullah Ghazi, a clinical psychologist and marriage therapist, explained that he had been a vegan for the last six months. He started by trying vegan dishes at restaurants, then trying to commit to a vegan meal a day. Eventually, his whole diet became vegan.

Ghazi said: “I was trying to find a better lifestyle because I’m getting into my 30s. Since I have a medical background, I could not try something new without doing my homework, and what I found was very encouraging. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower heart disease mortality rates.”