WORLD AIDS DAY MESSAGE 2018

1 December 2018
Eamonn Murphy,
UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

As we mark the 30th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day, we acknowledge that the HIV response has moved from despair to hope over the last three decades. Since 1988, the HIV response has made significant progress and today, as a result of testing and treatment advances, millions of people living with HIV are leading healthy and productive lives.

The worst threat we have today in our response to the epidemic is complacency. Despite the availability of a widening array of effective HIV prevention tools and a massive scale-up of HIV treatment, new HIV infections have not decreased sufficiently in Asia and the Pacific. The annual number of new HIV infections has declined by 14% since 2010 but the region is falling short of the 2020 Fast-Track prevention target.AIDS is still not over, and the pace of progress is not quickening fast enough. We have miles to go and that includes reaching people living with HIV who do not know their status and who are not virally suppressed, to link them to quality HIV services, not leaving anyone behind.

A significant proportion of people who test HIV-positive are diagnosed late, when they are already ill and symptomatic. This leads to HIV treatment starting late, undermining its benefits and increasing the risk of long-term complications

On this World AIDS Day, with a campaign titled “Live life positively. Know your HIV status”, UNAIDS brings HIV testing into the spotlight. And for a good reason. Knowing your HIV status has many advantages. HIV testing services are an essential gateway to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. No matter the result, HIV test provides vital information. A negative result is an opportunity to take steps to stay HIV-free. A positive test result is a necessary first step towards accessing treatment and living a long and healthy life.

In 2017, 1.4 million people were unaware that they are living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific. In the region, only one-in-three young people from key populations and about half of sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and transgender people are aware of their HIV status. Many barriers to HIV testing still remain. HIV-related stigma, discrimination and human rights violations disempower people living with HIV and people at risk of HIV infection. Taboos and misunderstandings about HIV persist, discouraging people from seeking the knowledge and services they need. Legal barriers and laws that criminalize key populations remain on the books in many places and are powerful deterrent to seeking HIV testing and treatment.

UNAIDS is calling for global commitment to scale up HIV testing. Innovative approaches such as HIV self-testing, community-based testing services and multi-disease testing are offering effective ways for sharply increasing the proportion of people living with HIV who know their status. Several countries in Asia and the Pacific are using these approaches in partnership with communities and achieved great results reaching people who are currently not accessing testing services and bringing HIV services closer to the people who need them the most.

But support for HIV testing remains far below what is needed to end the epidemic. We urgently need sustained political commitment and investment to expand innovation and testing programmes, remove policy and legal barriers, integrate HIV testing within primary health care and universal health coverage and ensure immediate linkages to HIV prevention and treatment services.

Governments, civil society and partners must continue to work together to expand HIV testing coverage and help countries meet the Fast-Track Targets by 2020.

Knowledge is power. Knowledge gave individuals power over their environment and circumstances: the power to control their own destiny. The power for people to determine the right options to stay healthy. And the power to stay well and live long and productive lives.

Let’s ensure that everyone has that power. Know your HIV status.

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Contact

UNAIDS | Michela Polesana | Tel. +66 (0) 945194092 | polesanam@unaids.org

 

UNAIDS

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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