“The world has pledged to end AIDS by 2030, but we are on the right track,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his official message.
“Today, we risk millions more new infections and millions more deaths,” he added, calling on governments around the world to make the “equalize” slogan a reality.
He said there are “proven practical solutions” that can help end AIDS, such as more funding to increase the availability, quality and appropriateness of HIV treatment, testing and prevention services.
“Better laws, policies and practices to address the stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV, particularly marginalized populations. Everyone needs to be respected and welcomed.”
He said that the multi-level inequality that perpetuates the epidemic can and must be overcome: “We can end AIDS. If we get along.”
Science and Solidarity: Kőrösi
Echoing the UN chief’s call to action, and his own central theme for the year, General Assembly President Mócsaba Kőrösi said the AIDS crisis “deserves a solution based on science, solidarity and sustainability”.
“We need urgent action to end the inequalities that make people vulnerable to infection. If the international community acted, 3.6 million new HIV infections and 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths could be avoided this decade.
He called on all Member States and stakeholders to renew their political and financial commitment to end AIDS before the ambitious deadline.
A long way to go, to protect the weak
Earlier in the week, Maureen Murenga, an HIV activist and UnitAid board member, shared a powerful personal testimony to encourage greater urgency in the fight against the disease.
A recent UNAIDS report noted that the global AIDS response is at risk, with new infections and deaths rising in many parts of the world, Ms Murenga explained that adolescent girls and young women are still disproportionately affected by HIV.
“(It’s) really sad because 20 years ago when I was diagnosed with HIV, I was a teenager and a young woman and I thought that 20 years later we would be telling a different story and not the same sad story,” she said. . He said this to reporters at a Geneva briefing ahead of the International Day.
Ms Murenga, a Kenyan national who represents communities living with HIV, faced hostility and stigma when she contracted the virus in the early 2000s.
Through her organization, the Lean on Me Foundation, teenagers and young women with HIV receive care and support, but disparities persist in the overall approach to treatment and prevention.
“We’re still seeing a lot of new infections,” he said. “This means that treatment is not reaching everyone and where it is, people are not adhering to treatment.”
Still, progress has been made, especially in detecting the infection, Murenga said, recalling the agony of waiting for a diagnosis and the fact that he needed to be tested five times before admitting the fact that he had HIV.
Lack of support structure
“When I was diagnosed with HIV, there was a delay in getting the results,” he said. “They test you and then you wait two weeks for the results. It was a very difficult time for anyone to wait that long.”
According to UNAIDS, adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 are three times more likely to contract HIV than adolescent girls and young men in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The driving factor is power,” the UN agency said, citing a study that showed that allowing girls to stay in school until they finish secondary education “reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 50%.” percentage
No more death penalty
In 2021, Unitaid reported that more than 38 million people worldwide were living with HIV, 1.5 million people were newly infected with HIV, and 650,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses.
Despite these stark numbers, Ms Murenga insists that HIV is no longer a ‘death sentence’. Now, “people can diagnose much faster,” he emphasized. “We also have diagnostics like self-test kits where you can do it confidentially and privately.”
The past 20 years have also seen important innovations that have ensured the suitability of treatment regimens for young HIV patients, albeit with some caveats, Ms Murenga noted.
Boy in danger
“There was no treatment for our children and my son was also diagnosed with HIV. So that means I could not take medicine to save my life and let my son die.
“So, I will improvise my tablet and give it to the boy by splitting it in two. But then he didn’t know if it was affecting his body parts. I didn’t know if the dose was right, but I was sure he didn’t die.”
He added: “It took us some time to get medicine for the children. And even when it arrived, it wasn’t very kid friendly. And recently, we have pediatric dolutegravir which is suitable for children, but it is the only one, so there is no difference in resistance in children”.