Around half of HIV+ people in Asia-Pacific don’t have access to life-saving drugs

Less than half of people living with HIV in Asia-Pacific have access to life-saving antiretroviral medicine, UNAIDS figures have revealed.

The research, released on the 30th World AIDS Day, shows that 5.1 million people are living with HIV in the Asia-Pacific region.

This includes countries in east Asia, southeast Asia and Oceania, like Australia, the South Pacific Islands and New Zealand.

Of that figure, 2.4 million lack access to appropriate and vital medical treatments.

Blood test tubes

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations president Dr Bridget Haire said: “As a global community, we are making profound progress against HIV.”

However, she warned that “epidemics are dynamic. If you don’t maintain momentum, they quickly regain ascendancy.”

Haire pointed out that 170,000 people in Asia-Pacific have died in 2016 due to AIDS-related illness, with 270,000 new HIV infections in the region.

Startlingly, 15,000 were children.

More than twice as many of the new HIV-positive people are men than women.

blood test


UNAIDS released the statistics as part of a campaign called Right to Health.

The campaign aims to publicise the global shortfall in access to quality care and medicine for individuals living with HIV.

As part of this initiative, Haire has called for greater support from nation states in improving access to medicine.

“We still have a long way to go in ending HIV in our region,” she said.

“Both the Australian Government and other wealthy nations must maintain their political and financial commitment to preventing and treating HIV wherever it emerges.”

By doing so, this could lead to those who are HIV positive living longer, healthier lives without the risk of onward transmission.

Progress towards this goal has been achieved, with a 13% decline in new HIV cases between 2010 and 2016 in the Asia-Pacific, alongside a 30% drop in AIDS-related deaths.

People living with HIV are growing old for the first time, which is presenting new and different challenges.

Campaigns and initiatives, such as those led by the late Australian Levinia Crooks, AM, have helped with destigmatising the virus and improving outcomes around HIV across the Asia-Pacific region.