International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2020 “We remember – We take action – We live beyond HIV”

Message from Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

In a world with advancing biomedical technology for preventing, testing and treating HIV, it is shocking that AIDS is still so prevalent in this modern age. Globally 35.4 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.

Behind these numbers are lives of humans unnecessarily lost, and families and friends who were left behind. We mourn for them. And today we remember them.

We are living in a world where the investment for the HIV response is diminishing and where more governments are rolling back on demonstrative statements and commitments on HIV and AIDS.

Lack of funding, lack of political commitment and lack of action against political, structural, social and legal barriers in many countries impact on the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV.

But we can change this, and we all need to get involved and do our part to end this epidemic. Communities contribute to the AIDS response in many different ways. Their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind.

The current COVID-19 crisis has taught us some good innovations. Communities are quick to respond and are at the forefront in supporting the government in ensuring uninterrupted HIV services.

Several groups of people living with HIV rally together to ensure that ARV refill would not be interrupted during the community quarantine.

We also learned that innovative approaches in delivery of HIV services such as multi-month dispensing, telemedicine and use of courier services in the delivery of services can be sustained even after the COVID crisis as part of the new normal. Today is the time that we take our actions together and bring to greater heights.

This commemoration does not intend to remember only those who have died from AIDS. It also reminds that we can live beyond HIV. The science behind U=U, which means undetectable is equal to untransmittable, gives hope to those who are diagnosed with HIV.

It brings back their dignity and self-worth. But we need to support them in ensuring better access to HIV services including the life-saving antiretroviral medications.

Lastly, to all those living with HIV I acknowledge you, your courage, and I give you my support. So, all of us, on this International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day join together and say, for the sake of all those who have gone before, we can end HIV and AIDS together.

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