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If HIV/AIDS global panorama were a pair of pants, it would have been bursting at the seams.
International Labor Organization (ILO) recent report said that since 2005, $17 billion of of income were lost from the labor force who were unable to work or who lost their lives to the extenuating disease.
The socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS is projected to affect 30 million workers living with HIV equivalent to $7.2 billion lost income in 2020. Data showed that about 26.6 million workers are living with HIV in 2015 and this number is expected to rise.
The ILO report made an urgent call to global communities to close the treatment gaps as soon as possible, intensify the testing and prevention interventions in order to safeguard long, productive lives for people living with HIV.
Moreover, the ILO report done in collaboration with UNAIDS also looked into the evolution of the HIV epidemic, the current and future impact of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to the labor force living with HIV, and an assessment on the social and familial impact of the disease on workers living with HIV.
Also, the report looked into the burden of care for members of the household. It is seen that by 2020, about 140,000 children will shoulder child-labor level burden, while about 50,000 full-time workers may be involved in unpaid care work.
According to Mr. Guy Ryder, ILO director-general, the number of deaths in the workforce due to HIV/AIDS is projected to decline to 425,000 in 2020 from 1.3 million in 2005. Mortality incidence is high on workers in their 30’s.
“This is the age workers are normally at the peak of their productive life. These deaths are totally avoidable if treatment is scaled up and fast tracked,” said Ryder.
Workers living with HIV and received the ART were able to keep productive lives. The number of those workers who were able to partially or fully work has dramatically increased. While those who were partially or fully unable to work have been projected to steadily decline to about 40,000 by 2020 from 350,000 in 2005--85% decline for men and 95% decline for women.
However, even when the ART treatment is scaled up, the 2020 projected picture still haunts-- the number may reach 30 million of workers living with HIV .
According to Ryder, mere scaling up of treatment is not enough. There is a need to boost the testing and HIV prevention measures in order to end AIDS. “This makes human sense. And this makes astute economic sense.”
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Global HIV/AIDS Lens
Since the start of the epidemic, more than 75 million people have become infected with HIV. While about 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses so far. Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV in which 1 out of 3 person died of AIDS-related illnesses.
Data from 2016 showed that there were 36.7 million people all over the world were living with HIV. About 35 million of those were adults, 18 million were women 15 years old and above; while more than 2 million were children below 15 years old.
Out of the 36.7 million people living with HIV in 2016, only 53% had access to HIV treatment, while about 54% of 35 million adults aged 15 and above had access to treatment, while 43% of the 2 million children aged 0-14 years old had access to HIV treatment.
Since June 2017, close to 21 million people were receiving ART treatment. While about 1.8 million people were added to newly infected people with HIV in 2016.
About 1 million people worldwide died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2016. This was a decline to the 2010 data which showed about 1.5 million died from the disease.
World expenditure on HIV/AIDS showed more than $19 billion AIDS response were made available in low to middle income countries in 2016. And by 2020, UNAIDS estimates about US$ 26.2 billion will be needed as AIDS response for low- and middle-income countries in 2020 while about US$ 23.9 billion needed in 2030.
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Aside from early diagnosis, testing, and antiretroviral treatments, another preventive measure which could save global economy with billions on lost labor force income may have been identified by a UCLA study.
According to Steven Shoptaw of the David Geffen School of Medicine and Ryan Cook of the Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA, a specific HIV group called MSM or men having sex with men among Black Americans who received strong support network is more likely to avoid the disease than those who have not.
The study was recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
The research concluded that strong, influential relationships established with family, friends, and peers can help protect the MSM group from getting infected with HIV. This finding is critical in the outlining of future HIV interventions and prevention programs.
Researchers gleaned from 2009-2011 data and analyzed the multi-faceted intervention programs for the MSM group, specifically the Black/African Americans in six US cities. Factors they looked into were the association between the measure of network support pertaining to personal, emotional, financial, medical, social participation among others; time to HIV seroconversion or when the antibodies against the virus develop and become detectable in the bloodstream.
At the beginning of the study, about 1,000 MSM participants were assessed and tested negative for HIV infection. However, in the course of the study, about 28 MSM were eventually diagnosed positive for HIV. One particularly impressive factor that stood out from the findings was that MSM who were HIV-free in the duration of the study showed that they received personal, emotional, medical and social support.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that those who died from this disease in the US reached 3,379 in 2015. Lack of awareness of HIV in communities remains the topmost risk which contributes to MSM disease transmission. Those who do not know they are infected may transmit HIV to others unknowingly too.