Guyana, like the rest of the world, yesterday commemorated World AIDS Day, a disease that has for decades remained
a threat to mankind. However, an end to this public health dilemma is on the horizon.
Amplifying this notion to mark the commemoration yesterday was United Nation Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
According to him, the aim of bringing an end to AIDS by 2030, is a pledge that world leaders have committed to. And the attainment of this goal is likely to be realised through a fast track approach recently launched, said Ban Ki-moon as he alluded to “tremendous progress” the world is making in responding to the AIDS epidemic.
This is evident by the almost 14 million people worldwide who are now accessing HIV treatment, said Ban Ki-moon as he pointed out that “we have reduced new HIV infections by 38 per cent since 2001. We have prevented 1.16 million infections among newborn babies by providing essential antiretroviral medicines,” outlined the Secretary General. He insisted too that “we are on track to provide antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people by 2015 and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission within the next few years.”
Even as he pointed out that “we continue to tackle and remove laws that stigmatise and discriminate,” Ban Ki-moon underscored that the achievements made thus far has also been a direct result of the
dedication and energy of many partners including those in civil society.
He however noted that the gains remain fragile.
Currently, there are 35 million people living with the virus and some 19 million of them do not know they have the virus. This is compounded by the fact that there are important gaps in the global response to key groups of people. “Two out of three children who need treatment do not get it. Young women are particularly vulnerable in many countries with high HIV prevalence,” said Ban Ki-moon as he observed that the epidemic is increasing in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, a state of affairs that is fuelled by stigma, discrimination and punitive laws. Added to this, he noted, that the essential work of community systems and support organisations often lacks support even as he shared his conviction that “we must leave no one behind.”
“I am pleased and proud to see that we are moving forward,” said Ban Ki-moon as he pointed out that “the legacy of the AIDS response is already apparent as we confront Ebola in West Africa.”
“We know that medical systems alone are not enough to provide robust healthcare. Social justice, the democratization of science, shared responsibility for financing, human rights and gender equity, and a people-centered approach to health are all lessons we have learned in the AIDS response that are being applied across the board, including in our discussions on the post-2015 development agenda,” said Ban Ki-moon.
And even as World AIDS Day was celebrated it was the call of UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, to reflect on the lives lost to the Ebola Virus. According to Sidibé, the Ebola outbreak is one that reminds of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. “People were hiding and scared. Stigma and discrimination were widespread. There were no medicines and there was little hope.”
But thanks to global solidarity, coupled with social mobilization and civil society activism, Sidibé said that “we have been able, together, to transform tragedy into opportunity. We have been able to break the conspiracy of silence, to reduce the price of medicines and break the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic. This has saved millions of lives.”
He however noted that the challenge remains to break the epidemic for good. “If we don’t, it could spring back and it will be impossible to end,” said Sidibé. According to him, there currently exists a short five-year window of opportunity to reach the people who are being left behind. These people including young women, adolescent girls, men who have sex with men, migrants, prisoners, sex workers and people who inject themselves, are denied their rights, Sidibé lamented.
In order to address this he spoke of the need to ensure that health systems are strengthened to provide the essential services that are needed, and the need for civil society to be supported so it can continue to play its vital role.
Sidibé moreover noted that “On World AIDS Day 2014, it is time to redouble our efforts, to fast-track our actions and close the gap between people who have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services and people who are being left behind.”
He stressed that by fast-tracking countries, cities and communities “we can reach people most affected by HIV.”
With Fast-Track Targets like 90–90–90 Sidibé is optimistic that 90 per cent of people living with HIV will know their status, 90 per cent of people who know their HIV positive status will be on treatment and that 90 per cent of people on treatment will have suppressed viral loads.
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