Ahead of World AIDS Day, which will be observed on Thursday, an analysis by the United Nations has revealed that inequalities are obstructing the end of AIDS and looking at current trends, the world will not meet agreed global targets.
A new UN AIDS report released on Tuesday titled “Dangerous Inequalities” highlights the need for urgent action to get the AIDS response on track.
World AIDS Day, which will be observed on December 1, brings together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. This year the theme is “Equalize”.
The day provides an opportunity for public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the disease and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care in high-prevalence countries and around the world.
According to the United Nations’ 2022 message, the rising new infections and continuing deaths in many parts of the world are underpinned by inequalities. Dangerous Inequalities unpacks the impact on the AIDS response of gender inequalities, of inequalities faced by key populations; and between children and adults. It sets out how worsening financial constraints are making it more difficult to address those inequalities.
Additionally, the UN said that across 33 countries from 2015 to 2021, only 41 per cent of married women aged 15-24 could make their own decisions on sexual health. The only effective roadmap to ending AIDS, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring health, rights and shared prosperity is a feminist one.
To quote UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima: “The world will not be able to defeat AIDS while reinforcing patriarchy. We need to address the intersecting inequalities women face. In areas of high HIV burden, women subjected to intimate partner violence face up to a 50 per cent higher chance of acquiring HIV.”
The new report also shows that donor funding is helping to catalyse increased domestic funding. New investments to address HIV-related inequalities are urgently needed.
In 2021, funding available for HIV programmes in low- and middle-income countries was US$8 billion short. This, therefore, means that increasing donor support is vital to getting the AIDS response back on track. On Tuesday, the UN said that fiscal space for health investments in low- and middle-income countries needs to be expanded, including through substantial debt cancellation and through progressive taxation. Ending AIDS is far less expensive than not ending AIDS.
In 2021, 650,000 persons were lost to AIDS, and 1.5 million persons newly acquired HIV.
In the Caribbean region, we can boast of several successes in relation to our HIV response. Programmes to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, reduce new HIV infections and treat people living with the virus have yielded encouraging results. Additionally, the Caribbean is the only developing region that has approached the near-universal coverage of antiretroviral medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
Here in Guyana, a significantly higher number of persons have been coming forward to be tested. The programmes that have been implemented have resulted in significant progress being made and should certainly be continued.
Having said that, the region including Guyana, cannot become complacent. In order to sustain the advances made, Governments and international donor partners need to put more money and effort towards ensuring that their HIV programmes can be sustained.
HIV continues to be a major global public health issue.
While there is no cure for HIV infection, effective antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus and help prevent transmission so that people with HIV, and those at substantial risk, can enjoy healthy, long and productive lives. International development partners and governments must continue to do what is necessary to win the battle against HIV/AIDS.