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2 out of every 3 new HIV infections occurred in African – WHO

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2 out of every 3 new HIV infections occurred in African – WHO

The World Health Organization, WHO, has said that HIV has remained a major global public health problem for the past 40 years.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said this in a message to mark World AIDS Day 2021.

The theme of the commemoration is: “End inequalities, end AIDS, end the pandemic”

Ms Moeti said the illness had a particular resonance almost two years after the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that in 2020 two out of three new HIV infections occurred in Africa, corresponding to nearly 2,500 new HIV infections every day.

Ms Moeti said that AIDS sadly claimed 460,000 lives, or 1,300 every day, despite free access to effective treatment.

“Despite the challenges, Africa has made significant progress against HIV in the last decade, reducing new infections by 43% and nearly half of AIDS-related deaths.

“In the region, 86% of people living with HIV know their status and 76% are receiving antiretroviral therapy.

“We cannot adequately express our support for people living with HIV, especially in a context where we know that treatment and care have been adversely affected in Africa by the demands of COVID-19.

“In remembering those who lost their lives to AIDS this year, we also acknowledge the terrible death toll that the coronavirus pandemic has taken and continues to take,” said the WHO chief.

According to the organization, “In the future, we cannot afford to lose focus on the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other epidemics around the world.

Ms Moeti praised Botswana, who said it was on the final stretch to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in what was a truly remarkable public health success.

According to her, only 16 countries have been certified to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, none of which had such a large epidemic.

She said it has taken more than two decades of hard work by leaders, health workers and communities, illustrating what is possible when the health and well-being of mothers and children is prioritized.

Ms Moeti said the African continent may not end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

He said the continent fell short of the expected reduction of 75% in new HIV infections and 81% in AIDS-related deaths by 2020.

“Despite the very high percentage of people living with HIV who know their status and treatment rates, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are not decreasing at the same time.

“It remains critical for us to reach out to those who are fueling the epidemic, addressing persistent inequalities in the delivery of quality care and interventions.

“For example, in West and Central Africa in 2020, key populations and their sexual partners accounted for 72% of new HIV infections in adults.

“However, punitive laws and policies, hostile social and cultural environments, and stigma and discrimination, even in the health sector, prevent them from accessing services.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, young women are twice as likely to be living with HIV as men.

“For adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19, three out of every five new infections are among girls who do not have access to comprehensive sexuality education,” he said.

Others, he said, “are those who face sexual and gender-based violence and live by harmful gender norms. They also have less access to school than their male peers.

“With COVID-19, people living with HIV appear to be at high risk of virus-related illness and death.

“Almost 70 percent live in the WHO African Region, where only 4.5 percent of people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“As efforts to address COVID-19 continue to gather steam and the world prepares for future pandemics, we risk repeating many of the same mistakes that have prevented us from ending AIDS.”

Ms Moeti said that addressing inequality was critical to ending AIDS and COVID-19 and preventing future pandemics.

The regional director ensured efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has equal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care, including vaccines and COVID-19 services.

He urged governments to prioritize investment in health for gender-transformative, human rights-based and community-led responses.

“We must boost our essential health workforce and ensure equitable access to life-saving medicines and health technologies.”

Ms Moeti said that global solidarity and shared responsibility were critical components of the kind of rights-based approach needed to end HIV / AIDS and COVID-19.

YAYA

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