What you need to know:
- Data shows that since the start of the pandemic, over 85.6 million people have become infected with HIV, and 40.4 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses globally.
As World AIDS Day approaches on December 1, the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is calling on governments worldwide to unlock the potential of grassroots communities in the battle against the epidemic.
The recently launched UNAIDS report, ‘Let Communities Lead,’ underscores the crucial role communities play in eradicating AIDS as a public health threat within the next decade.
The report was unveiled during a World AIDS Day event in London, organised by the civil society organisation STOPAIDS.
UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, emphasised the readiness of communities to take the lead in this fight.
She said communities are not in the way rather they light the way to the end of AIDS. She urged decision-makers to recognise and support communities as leaders rather than obstacles.
The report highlights how community advocacy has been a driving force for progress globally, from the streets to courtrooms and parliaments. Tanzania is emerging as a pivotal player in the global effort to end AIDS by 2030.
According to the newly released report, some of the grassroots efforts have led to groundbreaking changes in policy globally, including increased access to generic HIV medicines.
In particular, the cost of treatment has plummeted from $25,000 per person per year in 1995 to less than $70 in many countries most affected by HIV today.
Tanzania's contribution to this progress is notable, according to the report, with community-led programmes demonstrating significant impact.
The report reveals that among sex workers reached by a package of peer-based services in Tanzania, the HIV incidence rate was reduced to below half (5 percent vs. 10.4 percent).
The country has already achieved the 95-95-95 targets in combating the pandemic together with Botswana, Eswatini, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.
This means that 95 percent of those living with HIV know their status, 95 percent of those who know they have HIV are on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, and 95 percent of people on treatment to achieve viral suppression are therefore highly unlikely to infect others.
Data shows that since the start of the pandemic, over 85.6 million people have become infected with HIV, and 40.4 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses globally.
Robbie Lawlor, co-founder of Access to Medicines Ireland, emphasised the pivotal role communities play in driving systemic change.
"We are the vehicle for change that can end systematic injustices that continue to fuel HIV transmission," Lawlor stated.
He added "We are supposed to fight for a more equitable world and are tasked with dismantling stigma, yet we are sidelined in crucial discussions. The time for leadership is now."