Cape Town - To mark World Aids Day, the UN Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) has urged governments to take bold action against inequality, a driving factor in the rise of HIV/Aids infections.
The organisation believes if HIV services are kept at the current level, there could be 7.7 million Aids-related deaths over the next 10 years. This year will mark 40 years since the virus was discovered.
A report by UNAids has shown growing infection rates in many countries following the lines of inequality. According to the organisation, six out of seven new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa have occurred among adolescent girls.
Due to Covid-19, the pace of HIV testing has decreased, with people in 40 out of 50 countries reporting to the organisation that they did not receive treatment for the virus in 2020.
The report showed that although progress has slowed considerably, 28.2 million people had access to HIV treatment in 2021 compared to 7.8 million in 2010.
UNAids executive director Winnie Byanyima said: “We have an effective strategy that leaders adopted this year, but it needs to be implemented in full. Ending inequalities to end Aids is a political choice that requires bold policy reforms and money. We have reached a fork in the road. The choice for leaders to make is between bold action and half-measures.”
She has issued an urgent call to action underpinned by the slow progress due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling and violence-prevention programmes. Regions with large resource gaps which don’t take a rights-based approach to health have done worse than countries with inclusive health systems.
“We must be open-eyed about the risks of business as usual. Without bold action to end inequalities, the trajectory we are on will consign us to be trapped with multiple colliding pandemics. It will leave us at risk and fearful. It will undermine progress, peace and prosperity,” said Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand.
Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer said: “Our teams have routinely shown that with comprehensive care delivery and social support, and a larger dose of social justice, disparities in HIV outcomes can be rapidly narrowed, and health systems swiftly strengthened. We shouldn’t settle for anything less.”