On World AIDS Day 2020, World Health Organisation highlighted that 68% of adults living with HIV received lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2019 and while the world has made significant progress since the late 1990s, HIV AIDS still remains a major global public health issue that faces additional challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. In her message, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Winnie Byanyima shared that like all epidemics, it is widening the inequalities that already existed like gender inequality, racial inequality and social and economic inequalities which is making us become a more unequal world.
The theme this year on World AIDS Day is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact” which makes it important to increase HIV awareness and knowledge, speak out against HIV stigma and call for an increased response to move toward ending the HIV epidemic since it infected 1,700,000 people in 2019 while 6,90,000 died of HIV-related causes last year.
In her motivational speech on World AIDS Day 2020, Byanyima said, “It is the strength within communities, inspired by a shared responsibility to each other, that has contributed in great part to our victories over HIV. Today, we need that strength more than ever to beat the colliding epidemics of HIV and Covid-19. Friends, in responding to Covid-19, the world cannot make the same mistakes it made in the fight against HIV, when millions in developing countries died waiting for treatment.”
Since more than 12 million people are still waiting to get on HIV treatment even today, Byanyima pointed out that global problems need global solidarity. “Our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic was already off track before Covid-19. We must put people first to get the AIDS response back on track. We must end the social injustices that put people at risk of contracting HIV. And we must fight for the right to health. There is no excuse for governments to not invest fully for universal access to health. Barriers such as up-front user fees that lock people out of health must come down,” she said.
Byanyima concluded, “Women and girls must have their human rights fully respected, and the criminalization and marginalization of gay men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs must stop. As we approach the end of 2020, the world is in a dangerous place and the months ahead will not be easy. Only global solidarity and shared responsibility will help us beat the coronavirus, end the AIDS epidemic and guarantee the right to health for all.”