As we together to celebrate Pride Month, UNAIDS stands in solidarity with LGBTQI communities – a reminder of our commitment to human rights, equality and decriminalized same-sex relationships.
Around the world, 67 countries still criminalise same sex relations, with 10 imposing the death penalty. 20 countries criminalise gender diversity. Such laws hurt the public health of everyone, costing lives. Public health and human rights go hand in hand. UNAIDS reports that in countries where same sex relations are criminalised, HIV prevalence is five times higher among gay men and men who have sex with men than in countries where same sex relations are not criminalised. Where there have been recent prosecutions, this increases to 12 times higher.
UNAIDS marks Zero Discrimination Day (1 March) this year under the theme “Save lives: Decriminalise.” Criminal laws targeting key populations and people living with HIV violate people’s human rights exacerbate the stigma people face and put people in danger by creating barriers to the support and services they need to protect their health. Criminalisation increases vulnerability and drives discrimination and structural inequalities. It robs people of the prospect of healthy and fulfilling lives. And it holds back the end of AIDS. We must end criminalisation to save lives.
The Global Alliance to end AIDS in children marks a step up to ensure that all children with HIV have access to life saving treatment and that mothers living with HIV have babies free from HIV.
UNAIDS determined earlier this year that the AIDS response is in danger—with rising new infections and continuing deaths in many parts of the world. Now, a new UNAIDS report, Dangerous Inequalities, shows that inequalities are the underlying reason why. The report shows that urgent action to tackle inequalities can get the AIDS response on track. It sets out how worsening financial constraints are making it more difficult to address those inequalities. The report also shows how gender inequalities and harmful gender norms are holding back the end of the AIDS pandemic.
Every year, on 1 December, the world commemorates World AIDS Day. People around the world unite to show support for people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS. The inequalities which perpetuate the AIDS pandemic are not inevitable; we can tackle them. This World AIDS Day, UNAIDS is urging each of us to address the inequalities which are holding back progress in ending AIDS. The “Equalize” slogan is a call to action. It is a prompt for all of us to work for the proven practical actions needed to address inequalities and help end AIDS.
UNAIDS is calling on countries to challenge the inequalities and injustices that are obstructing efforts to end the HIV pandemic and weakening responses to other health threats.
UNAIDS talks this week with Jonatan Montoya for their podcast ‘Against the Odds’. Jon is an adventurer, traveller, former ballet dancer and above all – walker. He has set out on a staggering journey – to go around the world on foot, visiting each of the world’s 7 Modern Wonders, a massive journey of over 80,000 kilometres. Jon’s motivation for his mega walk is to raise awareness and understanding of HIV. He reflects on his own fear of being infected with the disease as a teenager, a fear that grew to the point that he became celibate.
Globally, only half (52%) of children living with HIV are on life-saving treatment, far behind adults where three quarters (76%) are receiving antiretrovirals, according to the data that has just been released in the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022. Concerned by the stalling of progress for children, and the widening gap between children and adults, UNAIDS, UNICEF, WHO and partners have brought together a global alliance to ensure that no child living with HIV is denied treatment by the end of the decade and to prevent new infant HIV infections.
Punitive laws have been shown to block HIV service access and increase HIV risk. Decriminalization is a critical element to end AIDS by 2030.
UNAIDS reports that most of the 150,000 new HIV infections among children in 2020 could have been prevented. A strong start would be to better engage women and girls at significant risk of acquiring HIV infection in integrated antenatal care and HIV services, including HIV prevention and testing, delivered at the local level, and to ensure that those who are HIV-positive receive treatment before pregnancy. Nearly 65,000 child infections occurred in 2020 because women already living with HIV were not diagnosed during pregnancy and did not start treatment.
Globally, the testing and treatment targets for 2020 were almost reached among adult women (15 years and older) living with HIV. Men living with HIV, however, are consistently faring worse than women across the HIV testing and treatment continuum. Compared to women living with HIV, there are 740,000 more men living with HIV who do not know their HIV status, 1.3 million more men, who are not on treatment and 920,000 more men, who are not virally suppressed. While gender norms that prize male strength and stoicism may partly explain why many men delay seeking care, other factors are also at play.
"I would love for every transgender parent to love their kids, regardless of who they are," says Queen Acapel Mbanusi of Nigeria, as part of the #SeeMeAsIAm campaign.
In the 2000s millions died waiting for the first ARVs until knowledge was shared, intellectual property barriers were overcome, and production was globalized. Yet for COVID-19 vaccines and many new HIV technologies that path is being blocked—and we are repeating mistakes of the past. The world will remain unprepared to end AIDS, unprepared to fight COVID-19, unprepared for pandemics of the future, as long as monopolies prevent global access to the best science, from COVID vaccines to new HIV technologies. This is a call on the world to join a movement to ensure pandemic-science for HIV and COVID-19 reaches not just the rich, but all who need it.