“The world promised to end AIDS by 2030,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in his official message, “but we have lost our way.”
“Today we are at risk of millions more new infections and millions of deaths,” he added, calling on governments around the world to make the slogan “Equalization” a reality.
He said there are “proven practical solutions” that can help end AIDS, such as increased funding to improve the accessibility, quality and availability of HIV treatment, testing and prevention services.
“Best laws, policies and practices to combat the stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV, especially those from marginalized populations. Everyone needs respect and to be welcomed.”
He said the multi-layered inequalities that perpetuate the pandemic can and must be overcome: “We can end AIDS. If we equalize.”
Science and Solidarity: Kyoryoshi
Echoing the UN chief’s call to action and his own theme for the year, President of the General AssemblyChaba Kyoryoshi, said the AIDS crisis is “ripe for solutions based on science, solidarity and resilience”.
“We need urgent action to end the inequalities that make people vulnerable to infection. If the international community takes action, 3.6 million new HIV infections and 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths will be averted this decade.
He called on all Member States and stakeholders to reaffirm their political and financial commitment to end AIDS by the target date.
Long way to protect the vulnerable
Earlier this week, HIV activist and Unitaid board member Maureen Murenga shared a compelling personal testimony to call for a more urgent fight against the disease.
Referring to recent UNAIDS report Ms Murenga explained that the global AIDS response is at risk as new infections and deaths rise in many parts of the world, Ms Murenga explained that adolescent girls and young women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV.
“(It’s) really sad, because when I was diagnosed with HIV 20 years ago, I was a teenager and a young woman, and I thought that 20 years later we would be telling a different story, not the same sad story,” she said. she is. told reporters at a briefing in Geneva on the eve of the International Day.
Ms Murenga, a Kenyan citizen representing communities living with HIV, faced hostility and stigma when she was diagnosed with the virus in the early 2000s.
Through her organization, the Lean on Me Foundation, adolescent girls and young women living with HIV receive care and support, but inequalities persist in the global approach to treatment and prevention.
“We are still seeing many new infections,” she said. “This means that treatment is not reaching everyone, and where it is, people are not sticking to the treatment.”
However, progress has been made, especially in identifying infections, Ms Murenga said, recalling the anguish she experienced while waiting for a diagnosis and that she had to be tested five times before she could admit that she has HIV.
Support structures missing
“At the time I was diagnosed with HIV, there was a delay in getting the results,” she said. “You will be tested and then you will have to wait two weeks to get the results. It was a very difficult time for someone to wait that long.”
According to UNAIDS, adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 are three times more likely to acquire HIV than adolescent boys and young men in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The driving factor is power,” the UN agency said, citing a study that showed that allowing girls to stay in school until they complete secondary education “reduces their vulnerability to HIV infection by up to 50 percent.” .
Death sentence no more
In 2021, Unitaid noted that over 38 million people worldwide were living with HIV, 1.5 million people were newly infected with HIV and 650,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Despite these harsh numbers, Ms Murenga insists that HIV is no longer a “death sentence”. Now “people can diagnose much faster,” she insisted. “We even have diagnostic kits, like self-test kits, where you can do it privately and privately.”
Ms Murenga noted that the past 20 years have also seen important innovations that have made treatment regimens suitable for younger HIV patients, albeit with some caveats.
son in danger
“We had no treatment for the children and my son was also diagnosed with HIV. This meant that I could not take drugs to save my life and leave my child to die.
“So I improvised and split my tablet in two and gave (it) to the child. But then I didn’t know if it affected the organs of his body, I didn’t know if the dose was right, but I just did it to ensure that he didn’t die.”
She added: “It took us a while to get medicine for the kids. And even when it came, it was not very child friendly. And more recently, we have a pediatric dolutegravir that is suitable for children, but it is the only one, so there is no diversity in children in case of resistance.”