In a new report released on Monday, November 29, the Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) warned that the world might face 7.7 million AIDS-related deaths in the next ten years unless leaders address grave inequalities. In an urgent appeal to action issued ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1, the UNAIDS organisation stated that unless revolutionary steps are taken, the world will remain locked in the COVID-19 catastrophe and will remain gravely unprepared for all future pandemics. The report comes after UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently revealed that at least 310,000 children across the world were infected with HIV in 2020. Besides, another 120,000 children died of AIDS-related causes last year, the UN agency reported.
According to their latest HIV and AIDS Global Snapshot, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the inequalities that have long driven the HIV epidemic, putting vulnerable children, adolescents, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers at greater risk of missing life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to rage, affecting HIV prevention and treatment services, schools, violence-prevention programmes, and more, progress against the Aids epidemic, which was already off track, is now under considerably greater strain, stated Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director. “This is an urgent call to action. We cannot be forced to choose between ending the AIDS pandemic today and preparing for the pandemics of tomorrow. The only successful approach will achieve both,” she added.
We cannot be forced to choose between ending the AIDS pandemic today and preparing for the pandemics of tomorrow.
The only successful approach will achieve both.
As of now, we are not on track to achieve either. #WorldAIDSDayhttps://t.co/Fx4j5ngGGG#WorldAIDSDay2021 pic.twitter.com/NCrSxHCVYL
According to the UNAIDS report, certain countries, particularly those with the highest HIV prevalence, have made “amazing progress” in the fight against AIDS. However, new HIV infections are not declining fast enough to terminate the epidemic, with 1.5 million new HIV infections reported in 2020 and rising HIV infection rates in some countries, the report stated. It further noted that infections also follow lines of inequality. Adolescent girls account for six out of every seven new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report.
The UNAIDS report looked at five crucial factors that are stated must be implemented as soon as possible to stop the AIDS pandemic in future. These include community-led and community-based infrastructure, fair access to medicines, vaccines and health technology, and support for front-line workers, the report stated. Human rights must be at the centre of pandemic responses, with people-centred data systems that highlight disparities, it added. Meanwhile, Helen Clark, Co-Chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, stated that Pandemics thrive in the cracks of divided communities. She added that the effort to eliminate pandemics cannot succeed unless world leaders adopt the steps that will enable them to do so.