Blessing Bature, Abuja
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that Africa countries should not allow AIDS to slide down priority list
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti made this disclosure on Wednesday to mark World AIDS Day 2022 tagged “Equalize” urging Africa to address the inequalities driving the epidemic and holding back progress in ending AIDS.
Moeti disclosed that at the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on AIDS in 2021, world leaders adopted the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS: Ending Inequalities and Getting on Track to End AIDS by 2030.
According to her, the Heads of State and Government committed to end all inequalities faced by people living with and affected by HIV in communities and countries, which are barriers to ending AIDS, adding with 25.6 million people living with HIV, the African Region continues to be most affected.
She said no other day is more appropriate for this call than today, 1 December, when we yearly come together with the global community to mark World AIDS Day.
She also stated that four decades into the HIV response, inequalities persist for the most basic services like testing and treatment siting example of HIV prevention programmes which reach only 40% of adolescent girls and young women.
According to her, only one in three key populations, who are particularly vulnerable to HIV, have regular access to HIV prevention services and they still face significant structural barriers, including criminalisation, discrimination and stigma. They include sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and detention and transgender people.
“With only eight years left to the 2030 goal of ending AIDS as a global health threat, coordinated action is required to stop the effects of the epidemic, with a precise focus to reach those most affected—especially children, adolescent girls, women and key populations”.
She urged governments and partners to close the inequality gaps in the progress toward ending AIDS by focusing on the populations that are being left behind. We need to put people at the center of the response by organising services around people’s needs and promoting integrated patient-centered approaches that are strongly linked with primary health care services.
“All Member States, supported by partners, should expand and sustain access to essential HIV prevention and treatment services by all, using innovative service delivery models. We must ensure that everyone, everywhere has equal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care”.
She also urged the Ministries of Health to build resilient and adaptable health systems that can detect inequalities and provide appropriate approaches to address those inequalities. This requires financial investment, integrated laboratory systems, a well-trained and adequate health workforce, equitable access to medicines and robust data systems.