NEWS COMMENTARY ON WORLD AIDS DAY.
People around the world unite on 1 December each year to commemorate World AIDS Day. The Day is used to show support for people living with HIV/AIDS and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever international day for global health. Annually, United Nations agencies, governments and civil society organisations campaign around specific themes relating to HIV. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is, “Communities make the difference”. The commemoration is an important opportunity to recognise the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels.
Communities contribute to the AIDS response in many different ways. Their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind. Communities include peer educators, networks of people living with or affected by HIV, such as gay men and, people who inject drugs and sex workers, women and young people, counsellors, community health workers, door-to-door service providers, civil society organizations and grass-roots activists.
The Day offered a platform to highlight the role of communities at a time when reduced funding and a shrinking space for civil society are putting the sustainability of services and advocacy efforts in jeopardy. Greater mobilization of communities is urgently needed to address the barriers that stop community delivering services, including restrictions on registration and an absence of social contracting modalities. The strong advocacy role played by communities is needed more than ever to ensure that AIDS remains on the political agenda, that human rights are respected and that decision-makers and implementers are held accountable. According to the UN bodies, globally, 27.9 million people are living with HIV with 63 per cent of them on anti-retroviral treatment. There were 1.7 million new infections in 2018, 77,000 AIDS-related deaths and 32 million deaths globally since the start of the epidemic. World AIDS Day remains as relevant today as it’s always been, reminding people and governments that HIV has not gone away.
At the launch of World AIDS Day last month, the Acting Director-General of Ghana AIDS Commission, Kyeremeh Atuahene, said Ghana had the capacity to end the epidemic in line with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Treatment Target, but complacency is slowing down the process. The media has a critical role to play to help improve resource mobilization and low publicity, which affected the sustainability of HIV programmes, service delivery and advocacy. 2020 is a very crucial year for the HIV advocacy in that it will be the milestone of the 90-90-90 fast track targets. It also marks the end of the current national HIV and AIDS strategic plan.
It also means that the nation through the AIDS Commission will have to start crafting a new strategic plan to continue with the fight against the disease. The Commission will also need to work hard in securing funding for HIV/AIDS campaign across the country. As we commemorate this year’s event we call on the public to get tested and to prioritise good practices which would keep their status negative, while we urge those on antiretroviral drugs to continue to use the drugs to ensure suppression of the virus. It is refreshing to note that HIV testing and anti-retroviral medicines are still free.
To this end, it is important for people living with the disease to patronise these services to stay alive for a long time. We must encourage the AIDS Commission to add up to the over 3,700 facilities across the country, offering free HIV testing services to help people to know their status and get HIV/AIDS-related services. One key issue that the AIDS Commission needs to redouble its efforts at addressing is the stigmatisation of persons living with the condition to help achieve the 90-90-90 agenda. Let us demonstrate love and care for people living with the disease irrespective of their background.
BY DOMINIC HLORDZI A JOURNALIST.