Fast-Track Strategy on AIDS

Fast-Track Strategy on AIDS Fast-Track Strategy on AIDS

Iran has adopted the ‘Fast-Track’ strategy devised by the UN for ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and its 90-90-90 targets, said Dr. Abbas Sedaqat, head of the AIDS Control Office at the Ministry of Health.

“The global decision to end AIDS epidemic by 2030 is based on a combination of major scientific breakthroughs, which means the disease will no longer be a source of hygiene, social, or cultural concern by 2030, when it will not be on the list of infectious and current diseases,” he said, ISNA reported.

A report released by UNAIDS - ahead of World AIDS day on December 1 - gave over 50 examples from countries that have adopted the Fast-Track Strategy, which, if adopted by all nations, could end the AIDS epidemic. It underscores the fact that if the world is to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, rapid progress must be made by 2020.

The targets stipulate that by 2020, almost 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. By 2020 the same percentage with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

Studies have shown that people who know their HIV status are less likely to engage in risky behaviors that could lead to infection.

Due to fear, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, and resistance to testing among at-risk populations, there is no accurate figure on the total number of people living with HIV in Iran. Reports by universities of medical sciences in Iran put the number at 27,000 diagnosed cases by October 2013. However, UNAIDS estimates the number to be around 74,000 – including those undiagnosed – of which 9,300 are women, and fewer than 1,000 children younger than 14, have HIV.

  Tough But Doable

Noting that only one-third of all the people living with AIDS in Iran have been identified and diagnosed, Sedaqat said, “Realizing the goal is hard but feasible.”

“A number of countries have reached the target at the moment; however, we are in a region where AIDS has not only seen a declining trend, but has fast escalated,” he rued.

The report says there are major benefits of fast-tracking the AIDS response in low- and middle income countries including: 28 million HIV infections will be averted between 2015 and 2030, 21 million AIDS-related deaths will be averted between 2015 and 2030, the economic return on fast-tracked investment is expected to be 15 times, and $24 billion of additional costs for HIV treatment will be averted.

“HIV treatment can dramatically extend the lifespan of people living with HIV and effectively prevent its transmission,” Sedaqat stressed, citing many opportunities for HIV prevention beyond medicines, including raising public awareness, preventive measures programming, behavior change, as well as free and confidential medical assistance including checkups and diagnostic tests.

  National Targets

The official also outlined the Comprehensive Plan on Care and Treatment for HIV.

“In the new model, the issue of AIDS will not be exclusive to behavioral health counseling centers. Other organizations will participate in providing services in addition to the institutions or centers that are already providing psychological, clinical or medical support to HIV patients,” Sedaqat noted.

Under the umbrella of behavioral health counseling centers, new units will offer diagnostic and clinical care, treatment, and support services.

All private doctors, substance abuse treatment centers, family clinics, medical-health centers including those operated by the Social Security Organization, specialized tuberculosis treatment centers, hospitals, special centers for vulnerable groups, orphanages, and NGOs would participate in implementing the new AIDS model.

“Behavioral health counseling centers will be empowered since they are tasked with supervising and coordinating other executive bodies, playing a key role in extending HIV services,” Sedaqat said.

“The protocols on how to collaborate will be directed to all relevant executive bodies, and the entire staff at health centers in smaller cities or towns will be trained on the plan in workshops.”

Increasing access to services is also on the agenda. “HIV testing centers will offer services to help patients take the next course of action, that is, antiretroviral treatment.”

He reiterated that the model will be drawn up according to a timeframe and will be piloted, reviewed and revised before it is implemented on a national scale.