World AIDS Day 2020 will be like no other.
That is the conclusion made by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, in her message marking this year’s celebration.
World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland.
The first World AIDS Day was observed in 1988.
The theme for the 2020 observance is, ‘Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact.’
In her speech marking the day, Byanyima, who is also Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, said COVID-19 was threatening the progress that the world had made in health and development over the past 20 years, including the gains we have made against HIV.
Byanyima, said, “Like all epidemics, it is widening the inequalities that already existed.
“Gender inequality, racial inequality, social and economic inequalities. We are becoming a more unequal world.
“I am proud that over the past year, the HIV movement has mobilised to defend our progress, to protect people living with HIV and other vulnerable groups and to push the coronavirus back.
“Whether campaigning for multi-month dispensing of HIV treatment, organising home deliveries of medicines or providing financial assistance, food and shelter to at-risk groups, HIV activists and affected communities have again shown they are the mainstay of the HIV response. I salute you!
“It is the strength within communities, inspired by a shared responsibility to each other, that has contributed in great part to our victories over HIV.
“Today, we need that strength more than ever to beat the colliding epidemics of HIV and COVID-19.
“Friends, in responding to COVID-19, the world cannot make the same mistakes it made in the fight against HIV, when millions in developing countries died waiting for treatment.
“Even today, more than 12 million people are still waiting to get on HIV treatment and 1.7 million people became infected with HIV in 2019 because they could not access essential services.
“That is why UNAIDS has been a leading advocate for a People’s Vaccine against the coronavirus.
“Global problems need global solidarity.
“As the first COVID-19 vaccine candidates have proven effective and safe, there is hope that more will follow, but there are serious threats to ensuring equitable access.
“We are calling on companies to openly share their technology and know-how and to wave their intellectual property rights so that the world can produce the successful vaccines at the huge scale and speed required to protect everyone and so that we can get the global economy back on track.
“Our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic was already off track before COVID-19. We must put people first to get the AIDS response back on track. We must end the social injustices that put people at risk of contracting HIV.
“And we must fight for the right to health. There is no excuse for governments to not invest fully for universal access to health. Barriers such as up-front user fees that lock people out of health must come down.
“Women and girls must have their human rights fully respected, and the criminalization and marginalization of gay men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs must stop.
“As we approach the end of 2020, the world is in a dangerous place and the months ahead will not be easy.
“Only global solidarity and shared responsibility will help us beat the coronavirus, end the AIDS epidemic and guarantee the right to health for all.”
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