The battle against AIDS comes to a halt while the race to end COVID-19 continues


UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto

United Nations Photo | Flickr

Rachel Dalloo

As many individuals across the United States and globally work to end the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations is urgently calling for a widespread action to end AIDS by 2030.

“Amidst the fallout from the COVID crisis, we could even see a resurgent pandemic,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, said, according to Al Jazeera.

“But a never-ending HIV pandemic is not our fate,” she continued. “Even in spite of all the setbacks, we can end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as we promised, if the world comes together.”

The pandemic has created setbacks in fighting against the AIDS crisis. With the majority of resources dedicated to limiting the spread of coronavirus and the new, more easily transmissible variants, the alarming spread of HIV in certain regions has not been sufficiently addressed.

“In this Decade of Action, if we are to deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development all Member States must recommit to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” Volkan Bozkir, the president of the United Nations General Assembly, said, according to a press release from UNAIDS, a global effort dedicated to ending AIDS by the start of the next decade.

Limited resources, health services and preexisting inequality before the pandemic have increased the risk of HIV transmission, particularly for “gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, women and girls,” according to UNAIDS.

“Ending inequalities is both a human rights imperative and a public health necessity. Yet, despite repeated commitments, human rights barriers that drive inequalities, such as stigma, discrimination, violence and punitive laws, continue to undermine the HIV response.” UNAIDS said in a blog post.

The U.N. assembly acknowledged that the total number of HIV infections in 2019 was significantly higher than the global goal established for 2020 and that new HIV infections have continued to rise in at least 33 countries since 2016, according to the Associated Press.

In Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa, there have been signs of significant improvement in the response to the AIDS epidemic. The region, however, continues to be the region impacted the worst by the epidemic.

The assembly called for an “urgent and exceptional action” to be taken, in order to avoid the dangerous effects of the disease, “especially on women, adolescent girls and children.”

There has also been an increase in reported HIV infections in  Europe, Latin America, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, according to The Huffington Post.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed highlighted the “need for predictable funding for preventive education and/or medical and psychological care,” to combat the spread, according to the U.N.

“To end AIDS, we need to end the intersecting injustices that drive new HIV infections and prevent people from accessing services,” she said.

“We need to stop blaming, shaming and discriminating against people in need and start creating the enabling environments that provide real help and hope.”