Urgent need to end the inequalities that are at the root of the AIDS pandemic: WHO and partners
On World AIDS Day 2021, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization (WHO) and their partners came together at a special event in Geneva, Switzerland, to highlight the urgent need to end the economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities that are at the root of the AIDS pandemic and other pandemics around the world.
“We are issuing an urgent warning. Only by acting quickly to end the inequalities that are at the root of the AIDS pandemic can we overcome it, ”said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “World leaders urgently need to work together to tackle the challenges head-on. I urge you to be courageous in matching words with deeds. It is scandalous that with every passing minute we are losing a precious life to AIDS. We don’t have time to waste. “
The world is a long way from meeting its shared commitment to end AIDS by 2030. By 2020, 37.7 million people were living with HIV, 1.5 million new HIV infections and 680,000 AIDS-related deaths. About 65% of HIV infections worldwide were among key populations, including sex workers and their clients, gay men and other men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and transgender people. , as well as their sexual partners.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many of the most at-risk populations were not receiving HIV testing, prevention and care,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General . “The pandemic has made matters worse, with the disruption of essential health services and the increased vulnerability of people living with HIV to COVID-19. Like COVID-19, we have all the tools to end the AIDS epidemic, if we use them right. On this World AIDS Day, we renew our call to all countries to use all the tools in the toolkit to reduce inequalities, prevent HIV infections, save lives and end HIV / AIDS. AIDS epidemic. “
If the world doesn’t tackle discrimination and inequality, UNAIDS and WHO warn that the next decade could see 7.7 million AIDS-related deaths.
A powerful video narrated by Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex and Ms Byanyima was shown at the event, demonstrating the troubling parallels between access to HIV treatment and access to COVID-19 vaccines. Between 1997 and 2006, an estimated 12 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in low- and middle-income countries because the cost of drugs made them out of reach for most of the countries most affected by HIV. Today, 10 million people around the world still do not have access to life-saving HIV drugs. The Duke of Sussex urged the world to learn from the history of AIDS and overcome inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and ensure that new HIV drugs and technologies are accessible to all .
A letter from the Duke of Sussex to WHO and UNAIDS was read, in which he commemorated 40 years of AIDS and expressed his gratitude for the work accomplished to date. In the letter, he stressed the need for vaccine equity against COVID-19, drawing lessons from HIV.
Speakers highlighted the impact of HIV on young people. “Young people continue to be stigmatized, especially those in key populations, and inequalities continue to compromise the quality of our lives,” said Joyce Ouma, Global Network of Young People Living with HIV.
“Young people are the future of nations and the cornerstone of the global AIDS response,” said Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health of Thailand. “Eradicating all kinds of stigma must be our full global commitment with immediate action. “
During the event, participants commemorated the lives of the 36 million people who have died of AIDS since the start of the pandemic and stressed the urgent need to do more for those most affected by HIV.
Namibian Ambassador Julia Imene-Chanduru, representing the Chairperson of the UNAIDS Program Coordinating Board, said: “AIDS remains an emergency that we must not forget in our response to COVID-19.
Speakers urged all countries, partners and civil society to be bold in implementing the commitment made in the Political Declaration on AIDS adopted at the United Nations High-level Meeting on AIDS in 2021 and in the Global Strategy to Fight AIDS 2021-2026: End Inequalities, End AIDS, both at heart to end inequalities.
“We can see the importance of the UNAIDS strategy, with a focus on ending inequalities,” said Stéphanie Seydoux, French Ambassador for Global Health. “This is what allows us to progress in the fight against this pandemic, and to ensure the health of all.”
“We know how to beat AIDS and we know how to beat pandemics,” added Ms. Byanyima. “Policies to tackle the inequalities that hinder progress can be implemented, but they require leaders to step up and be bold. “