The Executive Director of United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Winnie Byanyima has called for an end to social injustices among others to achieve the 2030 goal of eliminating HIV/AIDS in the world.
Winnie, in her statement as the world commemorates World Health Day 2020 under the theme: “Ending the HIV/AIDS Endemic: Resilience and Impact”, said that this year is unique due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“World AIDS Day 2020 will be like no other. COVID-19 is threatening the progress that the world has made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains we have made against HIV,” said Byanyima.
She pointed out that COVID-19 is exacerbating the existing social and economic inequalities.
“Like all epidemics, it is widening the inequalities that already existed. Gender inequality, racial inequality, social and economic inequalities. We are becoming a more unequal world,” she noted.
She, however, expressed gratitude to the organizations and individuals fighting HIV/AIDS for their dedication.
“I am proud that over the past year, the HIV movement has mobilized to defend our progress, to protect people living with HIV and other vulnerable groups and to push the coronavirus back,” she said.
Adding: “Whether campaigning for multimonth dispensing of HIV treatment, organizing 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!”
Winnie observed that communities have also developed strength aiding milestones being registered in HIV/AIDS fight.
“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. Today, we need that strength more than ever to beat the colliding epidemics of HIV and COVID-19,” she said.
She emphatically stated that the world shouldn’t make the same mistake made in tackling HIV/AIDS when it comes to 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,” she said.
Ms. Byanyima wants the world to unite to make sure the COVID-19 vaccine reaches everyone including those in the poor countries.
“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,” she said.