Today, the African Union Commission joins the world to celebrate the World AIDS Day in support of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme “Preventing AIDS among Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: African Communities at the Fore Front” is in recognition of the crucial role played by communities in advancing the AIDS response in Africa and around the world.
Africa has made remarkable achievements in the AIDS response since the Abuja Special Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Related Infectious Diseases in 2001, during which African leaders declared AIDS a State of Emergency in the continent.
Out of the total 37,9 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world today, a record 24,5 million people now have access to antiretroviral treatment to lead long, healthy and dignified lives.
This is a remarkable global achievement and much of the advocacy, action and mobilization came from our communities. While we have made significant strides to turn the tide of fear, suspicion, we still have a long road to travel to win the fight against this global killer that preys mainly among the most vulnerable in Society.
Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons are especially at risk, and more so young women between the ages of 15-19 years old who remain the most vulnerable to new infections. We have to urgently redirect our focus and address the relationship between HIV/Aids and Sexual and Gender-based violence, especially in humanitarian and conflict settings.
Increased access to treatment, care and support , including in conflict areas is vital, and the work of communities has always been the at the forefront in offering life saving support, comfort, care and often protection for those who needed it most.
This World AIDS day we salute the unsung heroes and heroines in our families and our communities that have been unwavering in their fight against HIV/AIDS, with many of them living with HIV/AIDS themselves. We renew our commitment to be part of this global community that raises our voices against stigma in our communities, that fights for increased access and dignified access to treatment, care and support. Especially to those most at risk of infection.
In this regard, African Union Member States will continue to actively engage with communities to reach the 2030 target of at least 30% of all service delivery being community-led and 30% of HIV investment in prevention – as enshrined in the HIV Political Declaration of 2016.
The African Union Commission through its high-level advocacy platforms such us the AIDS Watch Africa will also continue to champion for a robust, African-led response to end AIDS by 2030. Each action starts not with organisations but individuals like you and me. In memory of those we have lost and in support of our fellow Africans fighting the end of new infections and stigma, we renew our commitment to continue the fight for an AIDS-free world.