1 December 2020. Today, IPPF Africa Region joins the rest of the world in commemorating the World AIDS Day. This is a day set aside for individuals, governments, organizations, activists and other stakeholders to recognize the challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, evaluate responses and renew their commitments towards eliminating HIV/AIDS.
HIV continues to be a major global health issue, with the World Health Organization estimating that there were about 38 million people living with HIV at the end of 2019. Africa is hardest hit, with an estimated 68% of people living with HIV living in sub-Saharan Africa.
This year’s commemoration is unique as it comes at a time when the world is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic continues to pose significant threats to the gains achieved over the years in the war against HIV/AIDS across the world.
Seizing the Moment, a new report released by UNAIDS on the global AIDS epidemic indicates that 2020 targets will not be realized because of the challenges that have been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report further suggests the possibility of the global AIDS response being set back by 10 years or more if the COVID-19 pandemic results in severe disruptions to HIV services. This, with the background of a global community that is determined to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. COVID-19 has significantly affected people’s access to HIV counseling, testing, treatment and management services.
Women and girls are hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. According to UNAIDS, women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 59% of all new HIV infections in the region in 2019, with 4,500 adolescent girls and young women between 15 and 24 years old becoming infected with HIV every week. Young women accounted for 24% of new HIV infections in 2019, despite making up only 10% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. These figures are unacceptably high.
IPPFAR takes this opportunity to call on all stakeholders to re-think effective strategies that will accelerate and sustain HIV/AIDS gains now, and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. We must not relent in pushing African governments to strengthen their health systems and policies that will accelerate the achievement of HIV/AIDS goals. It is imperative that African governments implement their commitments to various instruments for the realization of health goals, such as the Abuja Declaration and the Maputo Plan of Action. Further, with shrinking donor funds, governments must strategize on domestic funding strategies that must be fully implemented.
Governments, the private sector, in partnership with the research community and medical associations, must also invest in cutting-edge research on the prevention, treatment and global understanding of HIV/AIDS.
Civil society and faith-based organizations should be encouraged to develop effective community models and put in place measures that eliminate any human rights barriers that prevent the achievement of these goals.
IPPFAR reiterates its commitment to supporting all measures aimed at realizing an AIDS-free generation in Africa.