The United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), has insisted that ending inequality is the keystone to public health response to ending AIDS and COVID-19 and also averting other pandemics.
The Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Natalia Kanem, stated this in a statement to mark the 2022 World AIDS, reiterating that “pandemics will thrive as long as inequalities do.”
According to her, pandemics thrive on the fault lines of inequalities, noting that HIV prevention initiatives must encompass ending gender-based violence, balancing unequal power dynamics and countering harmful gender norms.
“Both AIDS and COVID-19 can be halted and future pandemics thwarted, but it will require strong political leadership, action, and accountability on all sides to acknowledge that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Viruses don’t discriminate: our policies to defeat them can’t either. “Unless we commit to equal global health coverage and reshape our AIDS and other pandemic responses, they will continue to ruin lives, ravage communities and splinter societies. Investing in more resilient health systems will reduce inequalities, increase growth and mean greater security for everyone,” the statement noted.
The UNFPA Executive Director lamented that progress on the path to ending AIDS by 2030 has stalled in recent years, not because of a lack of knowledge or tools, but because these inequalities are obstructing access to HIV prevention and treatment.
This, she noted, is a plight that is only intensifying, as many countries scale back sexual and reproductive services amid the COVID-19 crisis, their health systems stretched beyond breaking point.
Meanwhile the threat of violence, the statement said, deters many in need from seeking HIV prevention, testing, treatment and support. “In short, our inability to decisively contain the AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics, and the “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence, is inseparable from our other deadly affliction — the disease of inequality.
“We see this when people living with HIV face heightened threats of social marginalization and prejudice. “We see this in the mounting vulnerabilities — to violence, to HIV infection, to being left behind — faced by adolescent girls, men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people who inject drugs,” the statement stressed.