The World AIDS Day, which has been observed every year since 1988 on 1 December, is a global day devoted to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection and honoring those who died from the disease. State and health officials, charities, people living with HIV (PLHIV), many at-risk communities and individuals around the world watch the day, often with AIDS prevention and control training.
The theme of this year’s (2019) World AIDS Day is “Communities make the difference”. This is an opportunity for the AIDS activists to evaluate the global target of ending AIDS by the year 2030.
On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, UNAIDS released a new report titled Fast Track: Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The report outlines ambitious new targets to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and prevent nearly 28 million new HIV infections and 21 million AIDS-related deaths.
While fast-tracking the AIDS response in order to reach these targets will require additional investment and focused efforts, not reaching these targets would be a set-back to the AIDS response and the current grasp we have on the epidemic would begin to slip as new infections and deaths would outpace the response. In addition, investing in the epidemic now would help save money over the long term — UNAIDS estimates that $24 billion would be saved in future treatment costs. This means that rapid progress must be made (Vision 90:90:90) by the year 2020 in order to remain on track to end AIDS by 2030 with vision 95:95:95.
Vision 95:95:95 means by the year 2030, 95% of people living with HIV know their HIV status; 95% of people who know their status on treatment; and 95% of people on treatment with suppressed viral loads. In addition to this, there must be reduced annual number of new HIV infections among adults to 200,000 and zero discrimination must be achieved.
Ten years into ending AIDS, there are 37.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2018, 79% received testing, 62% (23.3 million) received treatment, and 53% had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with no risk of infecting others. Also, new HIV infections have been reduced by 40% since the peak in 1997, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by more than 56% since the peak in 2004 and AIDS-related mortality has declined by 33% since 2010, (UNAIDS 2019 report).
Communities are contributing in many different ways to the AIDS response. Your leadership and activism makes the response meaningful and focused, keeping people at the core and leaving no one behind. Communities include peer teachers, networks of people living with or impacted by HIV, such as the LGBTQ community, people who inject drugs and sex workers, women and children, therapists, community health workers, door-to-door service providers, organizations of civil society and grassroots activists.
2019 World AIDS Day provides an important forum to highlight the role of communities at a time when reduced funding and decreased space for civil society are jeopardizing service continuity and advocacy efforts. There is an immediate need for greater community engagement to tackle obstacles that hinder the provision of services by societies, including limitations on registration and the absence of modalities for social contracting. For AIDS to stay on the political agenda, for human rights to be upheld and for decision-makers and implementers to be held accountable, the powerful advocacy role played by communities is needed more than ever.
Charles Olusegun Doherty is the Programme Manager at Ekiti State AIDS Control Agency. Born in the late 60s, primarily trained as a dentist at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. He has MPA and MPH with over 20 years of both clinical and social work experience in and outside Nigeria, he is armed with management and professional skills and has successfully managed donor funded projects such as World Bank HIV/AIDS Programme Development Projects (HPDP) I and II, participated in situation analysis of orphaned and vulnerable children in Ekiti State founded by Management Sciences for Health amongst others. He has attended many International AIDS Conferences and International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa where he gave both posters and oral abstract presentations and has published some papers. He is the author of AFRICANISMO He looks forward to an HIV free generation in Nigeria and the world.