The Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+) applauds the UNAIDS global AIDS update, “The Path that Ends AIDS,” which highlights the significant advancements made by Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Zimbabwe in achieving the 95-95-95 goals. These countries have demonstrated a commendable commitment to prioritising people and communities in their policies and programs, leading the world in the journey to end AIDS by 2030. Notably, East and Southern Africa, where substantial funding investments have been made, have witnessed a remarkable 57% decrease in new HIV infections since 2010.
Yet even in these most successful countries, as well as in many others, the achievement of these testing and treatment goals belie a stark reality: a significant number of people and communities – including women, girls, and key populations – are still being left behind across sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa and beyond. Due to gender and other inequalities, violence, stigma, discrimination, and harmful laws, women, girls and key populations are not able to access HIV testing, prevention, treatment and related SRHR services
The criminalisation of people living with and at higher risk of HIV further exacerbates the challenges. Many countries continue to limit access to HIV-related and other essential health services for these marginalised populations. Outdated laws that criminalise their behaviors persist worldwide, perpetuating the vulnerability of key populations and impeding efforts to control the pandemic. From criminalising drug use and sex work to consensual same-sex intercourse, transgender identity, and HIV non-disclosure, these discriminatory laws are the focus of equally important targets – the 10-10-10 – which are far from being realised. GNP+ continues to urge countries to join the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate all forms of HIV-related Stigma and Discrimination and to heed our ‘Not A Criminal’ campaign and calls for HIV Justice Worldwide.
“Governments should revise and repeal laws that criminalise people living with HIV and key populations, ensuring a human rights-based approach to HIV. Policies promoting comprehensive sex education, harm reduction programs, and access to healthcare without discrimination are vital to human dignity, as well as helping to curb the epidemic.” – Cedric Nininahazwe, Global Advocacy Manager at GNP+.
While significant strides have been made in treatment availability, tragically, millions of people living with HIV still lack access to life-saving medications. In 2022, AIDS claimed a life every minute, and approximately 9.2 million individuals worldwide were not receiving HIV treatment. Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa face particularly slow progress in providing treatment. Stigma, discrimination, criminalisation, and a lack of trust in health services further hinder access, particularly for key populations. Just as tragically, children and adolescents living with HIV continue to suffer from inadequate treatment coverage, resulting in approximately 84,000 children losing their lives to the HIV pandemic in 2022 alone.
GNP+ emphasizes the crucial importance of community involvement and leadership, particularly among people living with HIV and key populations. Out of the 193 UNAIDS member states, only five have successfully reached the 95-95-95 targets, underscoring the urgent need for increased commitment. The invaluable expertise, skills, and unwavering determination of these communities are essential in driving national and global efforts. Governments must prioritise the meaningful involvement of people living with HIV, not only in the HIV response but also in broader health and social justice objectives.
A persistent significant hurdle is the widening funding gap in the global HIV response. Analysis by UNAIDS reveals a direct correlation between increased HIV funding and a decline in HIV incidence. Regrettably, regions with the largest funding gaps, such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, are making the least progress in responding to the HIV epidemic.
With less than seven years remaining until 2030, urgent action is indispensable. GNP+ expresses deep frustration, anger and concern over new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, emphasizing the critical need for adequate resources and financing to achieve and sustain the progress made thus far.
Sbongile Nkosi, Co-Director at GNP+ underscores the urgency, stating, “It is time for all stakeholders to step up and take action. We need robust support, increased funding, and collaboration to make this a reality. Let us unite in our resolve to end AIDS and ensure that no one is left behind on this journey.”
Ending AIDS by 2030, calls for unwavering political will, increased funding, and a strong commitment to tackling inequalities, stigma, discrimination and criminalisation. It is crucial that communities most impacted by HIV take the lead in delivering and monitoring services. Only through strengthened partnerships, unwavering commitment, adequate financial resources, and a strong political will, can we overcome the existing barriers and strive toward a world free from AIDS as a public health threat.