World AIDS Day celebrates communities working to end the disease

This year’s commemoration pays tribute to the people and organizations who have been on the front lines of the disease – from fighting stigma and discrimination, to advocating for access to affordable interventions and community-led services.

They “have left an indelible mark on the world with their activism,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Advocacy and impact

Innovations such as a once-a-day HIV treatment pill and accessible viral load testing are just some of the results of their years of advocacy.

“The affected communities fighting for tools to prevent, test and treat HIV enabled 30 million people to access antiretroviral treatment and helped avert an untold number of infections,” Tedros said.

“We stand with communities to help end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”

The WHO said decades of investment and lessons learned from the HIV epidemic have also led to broader advances in health at both global and national levels.

The response to HIV strengthened health systems and increased access to services beyond testing and treatment for the virus, enabling, for example, rapid response to many diseases, including COVID-19 and mpox.

Millions go untreated

Despite significant progress, HIV remains an urgent public health problem, WHO said.

Worldwide, 9.2 million people do not have access to treatment, while 1,700 people die every day from HIV-related causes. A further 3,500 are infected, many of whom do not know their status or do not have access to treatment.

Furthermore, funding, criminalization and restrictions affecting the role of “community champions” affect the progress they have made and slow down efforts to end AIDS.

Many communities – including men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who use drugs and youth – still lack access to critical prevention, treatment and care.

Continued funding essential

The WHO highlighted the urgent need for continued funding of HIV programs so that community leaders can continue to reach affected individuals – critical to closing gaps in diagnosis and treatment of children living with the virus.

These efforts are also key to achieving global goals to ensure that 95 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of those diagnosed receive antiretroviral treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment, has suppressed the viral load.

Earlier this week, the UN agency working towards the goal of zero HIV infections released a report urging governments and donors to fully support grassroots communities who is leading the fight to end AIDS.

Lighting of the road

Their campaign opened up access to generic HIV drugs, lowering the cost of treatment from $25,000 a year per person. person in 1995 to less than $70 in many countries. UNAIDS the report said.

Although communities around the world have demonstrated that they are ready, willing and able to lead, they must have the right resources, said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

“Too often, communities are treated by decision-makers as problems to be managed, rather than recognized and supported as leaders,” she added. “Communities are not in the way, they are lighting the way to the end of AIDS.”

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