UNAIDS calls on countries to step up action to achieve bold new HIV targets for 2025

As COVID-19 pushes the AIDS response even further off track and the 2020 targets are missed, UNAIDS is urging countries to step up action to end AIDS and other pandemics.

Bangkok, 1st December 2020 —In a new report, Prevailing against pandemics by putting people at the centre, UNAIDS is calling on countries to make far greater investments in global pandemic responses and adopt a new set of bold, ambitious but achievable HIV targets. If those targets are met, the world will be back on track to ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

In Asia and the Pacific, the regional AIDS response was off track before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but the rapid spread of the coronavirus has created additional setbacks. Even though there has been significant progress in some countries, the AIDS epidemic is not over and new HIV infections continue to rise across the region. In Asia and the Pacific, the 2020 AIDS targets have been missed by a long way.

“In 2020, the world’s attention has been focused on COVID-19, and how the pandemic is impacting people’s lives and livelihoods. COVID-19 is showing us, once again, how a global public health threat is interlinked with other challenges such as unequal access to services, insufficient human rights protection, gender inequality, gaps in the social safety net,” said Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “To get the regional response back on track will require putting people first and tackling the inequalities on which epidemics thrive.”

New targets for getting back on track

Some countries have done remarkably well such as Australia, Cambodia and Thailand which have achieved the 90–90–90 HIV treatment targets. However, many more countries are falling way behind. The high-performing countries have created a path for others to follow. UNAIDS has worked with its partners to distil those lessons into a set of proposed targets for 2025 that take a people-centred approach.

The targets focus on a high coverage of HIV and reproductive and sexual health services together with the removal of punitive laws and policies and on reducing stigma and discrimination. They put people at the centre, especially the people most at risk and the marginalized—young women and girls, adolescents, sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs and gay men and other men who have sex with men.

New HIV service delivery targets aim at achieving a 95% coverage for each sub-population of people living with and at increased risk of HIV. The 2025 targets also require ensuring a conducive environment for an effective HIV response and include ambitious antidiscrimination targets so that less than 10% of countries have punitive laws and policies, less than 10% of people living with and affected by HIV experience stigma and discrimination and less than 10% experience gender inequality and violence.

Prevailing against pandemics

Insufficient investment and action on HIV and other pandemics left the world exposed to COVID-19. Had health systems and social safety nets been even stronger, the world would have been better positioned to slow the spread of COVID-19 and withstand its impact. COVID-19 has shown that investments in health save lives but also provide a foundation for strong economies. Health and HIV programmes must be fully funded, both in times of plenty and in times of economic crisis.

The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the agility of the HIV response. The HIV response has helped to ensure the continuity of services in the face of extraordinary challenges. In Asia and the Pacific, communities have organized themselves to ensure treatment continuity and access to social protection services. For example, in the Philippines Project Red Ribbon launched in partnership with the Manila Social Hygiene Clinic and Treatment Hub at the Manila Social Hygiene Clinic, and in collaboration with UNAIDS and the Department of Health–Metro Manila Center for Health and Development, the Love on Wheels initiative, to ensure continuity of HIV services to key populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples like Love on the Wheels give us the confidence that we can put the AIDS response back on track, seize new opportunities and gain on lost ground.

The world must learn from the mistakes of the HIV response, when millions in developing countries died waiting for treatment. Even today, in Asia and the Pacific, more than 2.2 million people still do not have access to HIV treatment. Some 300 000 people were newly infected with HIV in 2019 in the region. 98% of new HIV infections occurred among key populations and their sexual partners and more than one quarter of new HIV infections were among young people (aged 15 to 24 years).

Everyone has a right to health, which is why UNAIDS has been a leading advocate for a People’s Vaccine against COVID-19. Promising COVID-19 vaccines are emerging, but we must ensure that they are not the privilege of the rich. Therefore, UNAIDS and partners are calling on pharmaceutical companies to openly share their technology and know-how and to wave their intellectual property rights so that the world can produce successful vaccines at the huge scale and speed required to protect everyone.

“Governments are responsible for making life-saving medicines, vaccines, therapeutics, and other health services available to all. No country can do it alone—there must be global solidarity and shared responsibility to ensure that health systems are universally strong and no one is left behind,” affirms Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

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