The early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic were “plagued by confusion, fear, isolation, and discrimination” against those infected or at high risk, the President of the UN General Assembly reminded a commemorative meeting on Tuesday marking World AIDS Day – 40 years after the first cases were reported.
Under the theme End Inequalities. End AIDS. End Pandemics, Abdulla Shahid underscored a connection between COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, pointing out that both exacerbate inequalities and impact people, “particularly in terms of access to treatment and health services”.
Moreover, COVID and the HIV epidemic not only impact the health of individuals, but together have also “impacted households, communities, and the development and economic growth of nations”, he continued.
“We must reinforce international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against HIV, against COVID-19, and on any public health issue that protects our people”, he said.
“For four decades the programme has provided global leadership, promoted policy consensus, strengthened the capacity of national Governments to develop comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategies and of the UN system to monitor implementation”, said ECOSOC President Collen Kelapile.
“UNAIDS has been instrumental in mobilizing political commitment and social action to prevent and respond to HIV/AIDS”.
He said the fight against HIV/AIDS serves as a successful example of political leadership and commitment, joint action in the face of a global crises, and the importance of effective multilateralism.
Mr. Kelapile noted that earlier this year, the Assembly adopted a visionary Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, outlining an ambitious pathway for ending inequalities and getting on track to end AIDS by 2030.
“I wish to reaffirm ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies’ support to the full implementation of the Political Declaration and its readiness to play a meaningful role in contributing to a world without AIDS”.
UNAIDS chief Winnie Byanyima issued a “stark warning” in her virtual message that AIDS remains a pandemic, saying, “the red light is flashing and only by moving fast to end the inequalities that drive the pandemic can we overcome it”.
“Without the inequality-fighting approach we need to end AIDS, the world would also struggle to end the COVID-19 pandemic and would remain unprepared for the pandemics of the future”, she warned, which she added “would be profoundly dangerous for us all”.
Ms. Byanyima noted that amidst the raging COVID-19 crisis, progress in combatting AIDS is under even greater strain – disrupting HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling, violence prevention programmes and more.
“On our current trajectory, we aren’t bending the curve fast enough and risk an AIDS pandemic lasting decades”, she cautioned, urging more momentum on Member States-agreed concrete actions to address the inequalities that are driving HIV.
Speaking via video conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to United States President Biden, drew lessons from COVID-19 as to “just how quickly” medical public health interventions can be “developed, tested and produced when financial investment is substantial and sustained”, when Governments and the private sector work together.
“Moving forward, we must find ways to maintain this partnership for the robust commitment to develop accessible and widely available drugs, vaccines and other medical countermeasures to fight all infectious diseases”, said Dr. Fauci.