By Sola Ogundipe
While COVID-19 has devastated communities worldwide and remained in the spotlight since last year, the world must keep fighting to protect gains made against HIV/AIDS—a pandemic that has been raging for over 30 years and remains a global public health crisis.
On World AIDS Day 2020, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AHF, unveiled a timely new theme – “AIDS: The Other Pandemic.” In a statement, AHF noted that the theme and corresponding logo serves as a reminder that even in times of COVID-19, HIV/AIDS must be kept high on the global public health agenda because it still claims hundreds of thousands of lives every year.
“COVID-19 has justifiably stolen the headlines, but we must not forget the pandemic that has been raging for more than three decades and still affects millions of people globally,” said Terri Ford, AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy.
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“It’s absolutely vital that world leaders also keep their attention on HIV this World AIDS Day and beyond—and campaigns like ‘AIDS: The Other Pandemic’ is just one way to urge them to keep the promise on AIDS.”
The global AIDS response still consistently falls short each year by up to $6 billion of what is needed to sufficiently fund efforts around the world – this gap will likely widen further with the COVID-19 pandemic. Government donors must give their fair share to improve on and continue HIV prevention efforts and ensure everyone who needs it has equitable access to lifesaving care and treatment.
In light of social distancing requirements and other COVID-19 infection control measures mandated across most of the 45 countries where AHF works, this year AHF-Nigeria engaged the public via interactive media, such as social media campaigns, radio talk shows and jingles.
Across AHF-Nigeria states: Abuja, Kogi, Anambra, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Benue, and Nasarawa, there were free testing services.
‘’More than ever, the need for a concerted effort from all of us to put an end to AIDS by 2030 cannot be overemphasized, while this must be seen as a shared responsibility by every stakeholder” said Dr. Echey Ijezie, AHF – Nigeria Country Programme Director.
‘‘It is only when we are united that we will be able to end AIDS even amidst Covid-19.’’
According to the most recent UNAIDS statistics, 38 million people are living with HIV/AIDS around the world, and in 2019 alone, 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV and 690,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses. While millions of people today are accessing life-saving antiretroviral therapy, millions more still desperately need it.
“Even though we have made great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS around the world, we still have a long way to go,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung, AHF Africa Bureau Chief.
“It is simply unacceptable that people living with HIV in many parts of the world still struggle to get free or affordable testing and antiretroviral therapy. Even condoms are difficult to come by in many countries, though they are the most effective way to stop HIV transmission and extremely cost-effective. As there is still no HIV vaccine on the horizon, guaranteeing prevention and treatment for all is the only way we’ll bring the virus under control.”