By Haruna Gimba
The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has warned that despite intensive action and progress made against HIV in some places and population groups, HIV epidemics continue to expand in others and issued a set of 10 key recommendations.
Forty years since the first AIDS cases were reported and just weeks before the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS, the United Nations Secretary-General has released a new report with recommendations and targets to get the world on track to end AIDS
He said if the 10 recommendations are followed by all countries, it will end the AIDS pandemic as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In a new report, addressing inequalities and getting back on track to end AIDS by 2030, the United Nations Secretary-General urges the world to address the inequalities that are slowing progress.
“It is imperative to break out of an increasingly costly and unsustainable cycle of achieving some progress against HIV but ultimately not enough to bring about an end to the pandemic,” said Mr Guterres in the report.
“Inequalities are the key reason why the 2020 global targets were missed. By ending inequalities, transformative outcomes can be achieved for people living with HIV, communities and countries.”
The global targets set out in the General Assembly’s 2016 Political Declaration on Ending AIDS were missed by a long way, allowing the AIDS pandemic to grow in many regions and countries.
The staggering 1.7 million new HIV infections that occurred in 2019 are more than three times higher than the 2020 target of less than 500 000 new infections. In addition, the 690 000 AIDS-related deaths in 2019 far exceed the 2020 target of reducing deaths to fewer than 500 000 a year.
UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima said ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is still within reach.
She said many countries are showing that rapid progress against HIV is possible when evidence-informed strategies and human rights-based approaches are adopted.
“But it requires bold political leadership to challenge and address the social injustices and inequalities that continue to make certain groups of people and entire communities highly vulnerable to HIV infection,” Byanyima said.
The report notes that COVID-19 has caused additional setbacks.
The United Nations Secretary-General warned that COVID-19 is not an excuse for missing AIDS targets, but rather a stark warning to the countries that they can no longer afford to underinvest in pandemic preparedness and responses.
At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the many spill-over benefits of HIV investments in health and development. Community-led service delivery pioneered by the HIV response is helping to overcome the extraordinary impediments created by COVID-19.
The set of 10 recommendations to get the world back on track include: addressing inequalities and reaching all people living with or at risk of HIV infection to reduce the annual new HIV infections to under 370 000 and annual AIDS-related deaths to under 250 000 by 2025; prioritizing HIV prevention to ensure that 95 percent of people at risk of HIV infection have access to effective HIV prevention options by 2025; and eliminating new HIV infections among children.