More than 12 million infected persons are waiting to access to HIV treatment while 1.7 million people became infected with HIV in 2019 because they could not access essential services.
The executive director of the agency, the Executive Director of Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Winnie Byanyinma, disclosed this in a statement to mark this year’s World Aids Day.
According to Byanyinma, COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains made against HIV.
The UNAIDS official, however, expressed satisfaction for the progress made so far in protecting persons living with HIV.
She said, “I am proud that over the past year the HIV movement has mobilised to defend our progress, to protect people living with HIV and other vulnerable groups, and to push the coronavirus back.”
Byanyinma also appreciated all health workers who have contributed in one way of the other to fight the virus.
She said, “Whether campaigning for multimonth dispensing of HIV treatment, organising home deliveries of medicines, or providing financial assistance, food, and shelter to at-risk groups, HIV activists and affected communities have again shown they are the mainstay of the HIV response. I salute you!
“It is the strength within communities, inspired by a shared responsibility to each other, that has contributed in great part to our victories over HIV.”
Continuing, Byanyinma stated, “Today, we need that strength more than ever to beat the colliding epidemics of HIV and COVID-19.
“Friends, in responding to COVID-19, the world cannot make the same mistakes it made in the fight against HIV when millions in developing countries died waiting for treatment.
“Even today, more than 12 million people are still waiting to get on HIV treatment and 1.7 million people became infected with HIV in 2019 because they could not access essential services. That is why UNAIDS has been a leading advocate for a People’s Vaccine against the coronavirus.
“As the first COVID-19 vaccine candidates have proven effective and safe, there is hope that more will follow, but there are serious threats to ensuring equitable access. We are calling on companies to openly share their technology and know-how and to wave their intellectual property rights so that the world can produce the successful vaccines at the huge scale and speed required to protect everyone and so that we can get the global economy back on track.
“Our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic was already off track before COVID-19. We must put people first to get the AIDS response back on track. We must end the social injustices that put people at risk of contracting HIV. And we must fight for the right to health. There is no excuse for governments to not invest fully in universal access to health. Barriers such as up-front user fees that lock people out of health must come down.”