Heed WHO’s HIV/AIDS advice

THERE MIGHT be no end in sight for the covid19 pandemic.

But when it comes to another pressing public health threat of global import – that relating to HIV/AIDS – it is actually possible to end this disease by the year 2030.

Or at least that used to be the belief.

As the world  marked World Aids Day on Wedeneday for the second time during the pandemic, it was clear covid19 continued to throw HIV/AIDS goals off track because of pressures it has placed on systems and access.

But while covid19 has complicated things, it has not removed the need for governments to act decisively to end the conditions that are keeping us from eradicating HIV/AIDS.

Covid19 and HIV/AIDS are very different illnesses, but the factors that allow both to flourish are the same: inequality, misinformation and stigma.

Though there is a lot we do not know about covid19, there is, after four decades, a great deal we know about HIV/AIDS. The condition is no longer a death sentence. People can take medication and can have viral counts so low as to be undetectable.

Babies can be born to HIV-positive mothers without the virus being transmitted to them. In many countries, you can regularly take medication – such as PrEP – to prevent yourself from contracting the disease.

Ending HIV/AIDS might have once seemed a pipe dream. But these advances have made eliminating it by 2030 low-hanging fruit.

Except, however, for the fact that just as we have the tools available to control covid19 and are not using them, so too is the Government seemingly dragging its feet when it comes to promulgating policies and measures that could stop HIV/AIDS in its tracks.

These days, the Cabinet is fond of complying with World Health Organization (WHO) advice on covid19.

Should it not also listen to what the WHO has to say in relation to HIV/AIDS?

For years, the WHO has asked countries to adopt the use of PrEP in at-risk populations. But to date, it is unclear whether Government has revised its conservative stance on this issue.

While such medications are not inexpensive, thousands of costly new infections can be avoided with virtual certainty.

It is also not clear why men who have sex with men are still not permitted to donate blood, why rapid HIV testing kits are not widely available, and why little headway is being made to end social discrimination and stigma against vulnerable groups.

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday, “The WHO calls on governments and citizens to use every tool in their toolbox to narrow inequalities, prevent HIV infections, save lives and end the AIDS epidemic.”

Listen to Dr Tedros.

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"Heed WHO’s HIV/AIDS advice"

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