For the first time, the United Nations has reported that over half of the people with HIV (53%) throughout the world are taking medication to treat the deadly disease. To put that number in perspective, 19.5 million out of the 36.7 million people around the globe are now receiving essential, life-sustaining care.
In the report, UNAIDS organization also noted that the number of deaths linked to AIDS have "almost halved since 2005," with 1.9 million deaths in 2005 dropping to 1 million in 2016.
The stunning progress has made UNAIDS officials hopeful that they can substantially increase the number of people they treat over the next three years.
"We met the 2015 target of 15 million people on treatment and we are on track to double that number to 30 million and meet the 2020 target," said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, in a statement. "We will continue to scale up to reach everyone in need and honor our commitment of leaving no one behind."
Though progress has been great in eastern and souther Africa, where the death toll dropped by 42% over the past seven years, UNAIDS reported that AIDS-related deaths have increased in the Middle East, North Africa, eastern Europe and central Asia.
But as both Jezebel and ABC News reported, there's still a lot of work to be done, especially when it comes to making treatment more accessible and affordable. Just last year, Stat News found that the Gilead Sciences was charging between $2,346 and $3,469 per month for four of its HIV medicines. That's roughly a month's rent in Los Angeles or New York, two of the most expensive cities in the country. It's ludicrous that big pharmaceutical companies charge such astronomical prices for drugs that save lives.
Other factors keeping people from receiving treatment include a limited resources and education and negative social stigmas. Through an exhaustive investigative report, The New York Times learned that many black gay and bisexual men in the South are afraid to seek the help they need because they fear how their communities will regard them.