This year marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.
From the first recognized cases so many years ago, we could scarcely see the precipice we were standing on.
That over time millions of lives all over the world would be lost, and that many millions more would be irrevocably touched by a global epidemic.
We soon learned that AIDS was much more than a medical problem. It laid bare social and economic conditions, the inequities, harmful norms, discrimination and marginalization, that have always been at the heart of the epidemic.
These lessons learned have had lasting implications, from our understanding of the basic science of retroviruses and human immunology, to dynamic new models of international cooperation, like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to revisiting concepts of health, how it is produced and how building health systems are vital to tackling this disease.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme, “Know your status”, focusses on the importance of HIV testing as a gateway to HIV prevention and treatment.
New HIV infections are rising in 50 countries worldwide and globally, new HIV infections have declined by just 18% in the past seven years. UNAIDS estimates that 9.4 million, or 25%, of people living with HIV do not know their status - a key barrier to scaling-up HIV treatment and reducing new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.
47% of all new HIV infections are among key populations (gay men and other men having sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs, transgender people, and prisoners) and their partners. While HIV testing is available, key populations and other vulnerable groups such as adolescents, young people and migrants do not come forward to get tested because of stigma and discrimination, lack of confidentiality, and fear of violence and repercussion due to discriminatory laws, policies and practices.
While impressive gains have been made in scaling up access to treatment, we have not seen the same success in HIV prevention and we are failing to reach marginalized populations.
To reach our goal of ending AIDS by 2030, let’s commit to stepping up efforts to address health inequities and promote universal access to HIV and health services that leave no-one behind.
After 30 years, we have much to be proud of -- and still so much to do.