HIV/AIDS: “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility, Resilient Services”
World AIDS Day, 2020
December 1st, 2020
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a life-threatening constellation of immunodeficiency symptoms and complications that results when an infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes a breakdown of the body’s immune system. Since the discovery of the disease about 4 decades ago, it has set the global health landscape on its toes; in trying to mitigate the impact of the killer disease.
However, the war against HIV/AIDS is far from over as the epidemic continues to spread— summing above million cases each year. About 1.7 million new infections were recorded in 2019 . The Covid-19 pandemic also dealt another blow to the coalition of efforts in 2020, as it engendered disruptions in the deployment of HIV treatment, testing and preventive services. This had dawned the reality that the ’90-90-90 target’ of 2020 in the plan to end HIV/AIDS by 2030 will be missed. The 90-90-90 target was to ensure that; 90% of people infected with HIV are aware of their status; 90% of people diagnosed with HIV are receiving treatment; and 90% of people receiving treatment achieve viral suppression. Missing this intermediate target would require revitalized efforts to nonetheless achieve the ultimate goal by 2030.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, progress had started slowing down. In 2019, 690 000 HIV-related deaths were reported; 1 in 5 people living with HIV were unaware of their status and 1 in 3 treated patients experienced disruption in supply of medicines. Also, 2 of every 3 new infections occurred amongst at-risk populations and their partners. With the advent of the coronavirus rampage, the service gaps became further widened. The lockdown in different countries encumbered accessibility to HIV centres for test, treatment and medicine supplies. Many health workers and systems operated at chokepoint during the first wave of the disease. The economic downturn exacerbated healthcare affordability for many patients, especially people living with HIV/AIDS. All of these constitute a bottleneck against the HIV control efforts, on both local and global stages.
But, we will not relent. For we have made tremendous progress in reaching this height—for over the last 3 decades, we have deployed one of the most efficient global health responses in history to disarm the then impending HIV pandemic and have been able to save millions of lives. It is a story of resilience and immense sacrifices. Now, with global solidarity and blocking of the loopholes in service provision, we can get back on track to achieve future milestones. In line with this resolve, the World AIDS Day 2020 is themed on the convergent idea, under wordings like: “Global Solidarity, Resilient HIV Services” by the World Health Organization or “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility” as featured by UNESCO and others and “Ending the HIV Epidemic through Resilience and Impact” as publicized by the International AIDS Society among many others .
The key message is for the global communities to reunite at these trying times to end the HIV epidemic with the same resilience they had demonstrated in the past. From funding commitments through prevention, control and management efforts, to psychosocial support for patients via policies and programs, we need to ensure uninterrupted adequacy, even in the face of a new pandemic and other diseases.
The WHO summarized the keypoint of these actions in 4 headings:
- To renew the fight to end HIV via coordinated HIV and COVID pandemic response
- To use innovative services for continued HIV care
- To engage and protect our frontline workers, especially nurses, midwives and community workers
- To prioritize the vulnerable— youth and key populations, to end discrimination and stigmatization.
For the millions of lives that we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, we must rekindle our effort to prevent further morbidity and fatalities and end the plague for good. And the way to that passes right through the resilience and impact we muster and proffer in global solidarity.
- WHO. World AIDS Day 2020. Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2020/12/01/default-calendar/world-aids-day-2020
- International AIDS Society. AIDS 2020. Available: https://www.aids2020.org/theme-and-objectives/