This month I write a relatively long blog to aid learning for myself and the reader………, I hope!.
One of my main objectives for the Fellowship opportunity with Save the Children, is to understand new HIV programming aimed at ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030, as outlined in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS. The UNAIDS has designed ambitious targets towards this very important public health goal, 90-90-90: 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are accessing treatment, and 90% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads.
Through this strategy, it is expected that suppressed viral loads achieved through strong adherence to antiretroviral therapy greatly reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others, and that high coverage of treatment can have a preventive effect within a community. The UNAIDS, latest 2017 report shows that access to treatment has continued to rise. About 21 million people living with HIV are now on treatment (compared to 19.5 million in 2016). The right to health has been highlighted as the key to ending AIDS, “the right to health is the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”. References to the right to health are found in international and regional laws, treaties, United Nations declarations and national laws and constitutions across the globe. The right to health is defined in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This includes the right of everyone, including people living with and affected by HIV, to the prevention and treatment of ill health, to make decisions about one’s own health and to be treated with respect and dignity and without discrimination.
UNAIDS’ new report highlights that the people most marginalized in society and most affected by HIV are still facing major challenges in accessing the health and social services they urgently need. These groups include sex workers, people who use drugs, gay men and other men who have sex with men, women and young girls, transgender people. In this regard, HIV Programs are continuously striving to target the people most affected by the pandemic, yet, are somewhat hidden pockets of the populations in most countries of the world. As such, the latest HIV programming is being designed to address key issues coming out of latest reports and research. Further, the UNAIDS report illustrates that Africa remains hardest hit by the HIV pandemic with more than half of all people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa and about 45% of all people living with HIV in the world, residing in Eastern and Southern Africa.
In the face of these statistics, it is interesting that homosexuality is outlawed in 34 African countries. So, my biggest question is, “how will Africa achieve for herself the ambitious 90-90-90 UNAIDS target to end AIDS, by 2030 if homosexuality is still considered a “taboo” and yet research shows that gay men and other men who have sex with men are a key population in fight against AIDS?
I will conclude my blog with a few more facts from the UNAIDS Report;
2015 JOINT UNITED NATIONS ENTITIES STATEMENT— ENDING VIOLENCE AND DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER AND INTERSEX PEOPLE. The joint statement notes that discriminatory laws negatively affect public health by impeding access to health services. They were denied their right to health services, their right to medicines, their right to protect themselves from infection. In being denied these rights, they were also denied their right to dignity, their right to a voice, their right to justice and their ability to live happy and fulfilling lives. “Stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, and specifically gay men and other men who have sex with men, make it harder to seek health care.” Please read more from the latest UNAIDS report at: http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/RighttoHealthReport_Full%20web.pdf
Indeed at the end of the Fellowship, I believe, I’d have enhanced my knowledge on HIV programming for key populations, and ready to significantly contribute to public health programming back home.