Dec 01, 2021 News
—UNFPA Executive Director on World AIDS Day 2021
Kaieteur News – As the world embarks on the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem is urging the global population not to forget that the world is also on the cusp of the fifth decade of the AIDS pandemic.
According to a UNFPA statement released on the occasion of World AIDS Day observed today, Dr. Kanem noted that the continued spread of these two viruses lays bare stark social, health, legal and economic inequalities faced by vulnerable communities across the globe – with untold consequences for millions of women and girls, in particular.
She noted that “Progress on the path to ending AIDS by 2030 has stalled in recent years, not because of a lack of knowledge or tools, but because these inequalities are obstructing access to HIV prevention and treatment. “
According to the UNFPA Director the plight is only intensifying, as many countries scale back sexual and reproductive services amid the COVID-19 crisis, because their health systems are stretched beyond breaking point.
“COVID-19 has also exacerbated violence against women, and those who experience intimate partner violence are at significantly greater risk of contracting HIV.”
“Meanwhile, the threat of violence deters many in need from seeking HIV prevention, testing, treatment and support. In short, our inability to decisively contain the AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics, and the ‘shadow pandemic’ of gender-based violence, is inseparable from our other deadly affliction — the disease of inequality,” she said in the statement.
According to Dr. Kanem, people living with HIV face heightened threats of social marginalization and prejudice.
“We see this in the mounting vulnerabilities — to violence, to HIV infection, to being left behind — faced by adolescent girls, men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people who inject drugs.”
Dr. Kanem noted that pandemics thrive on the fault lines of inequalities. “Ending inequality must, therefore, be a keystone of our public health response to ending AIDS and COVID-19 and averting future pandemics. HIV prevention initiatives must encompass ending gender-based violence, balancing unequal power dynamics and countering harmful gender norms.
To this end, the UNFPA Director posited that both AIDS and COVID-19 can be halted and future pandemics thwarted, but it will require strong political leadership, action, and accountability on all sides to acknowledge that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
She stressed that since viruses don’t discriminate: our policies to defeat them can’t either.
“Unless we commit to equal global health coverage and reshape our AIDS and other pandemic responses, they will continue to ruin lives, ravage communities and splinter societies. Investing in more resilient health systems will reduce inequalities, increase growth and mean greater security for everyone,” she said.
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