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To end AIDS in Africa, UNAIDS urges governments and partners to ramp up the response to HIV

HARARE/GENEVA, 9 December 2023—Africa can end AIDS as a public threat, but to do so governments and international partners need to increase actions to reach everyone in need. Actions include accelerating treatment for children living with HIV and HIV prevention for adolescent girls, young women and key populations. Governments also need to support communities’ vital leadership role in the HIV response. This was the message from UNAIDS as the 22nd International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) drew to a close.

At ICASA, thousands of delegates, including AIDS activists, grassroots communities, governments, private sector partners, key populations, doctors, scientists, donors and other international and African stakeholders came together to advance progress in the HIV response.

“Emerging from this conference we are clear. To end AIDS, governments and partners need to step up HIV prevention efforts. And they need to ensure that every person living with HIV has access to treatment, both current antiretroviral treatments and new longer-lasting injectable medicines, to live long and healthy lives,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Collectively we are calling for health-justice and equality for all people, including people living with and affected by HIV. Pharmaceutical companies need to put people first over profits by making sure that treatment is affordable and easily accessible.”

While progress has been made in expanding access to antiretroviral treatment—too many people are still not accessing treatment, including 4.7 million people living with HIV in Africa. Children remain disproportionally affected—across Africa, only 55% of children living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy in 2022, compared with 83% of adults.

While 3 million children have been protected from HIV since 2000 by expanding access to antiretroviral treatment for mothers living with HIV, still there were 110 000 new infections among children (aged 0-14 years) in Africa in 2022.

HIV prevention services are also lacking, particularly for young women and adolescent girls, and gender inequalities continue to drive new infections in Africa. Among young people (aged 15-24) in Africa, 77% of new HIV infections in that age group were among young women, and 23% among young men in 2022.

“AIDS is an injustice of inequalities. If you look at people who are not accessing treatment and people who are dying of the disease, you will see how inequalities are obstructing their access to HIV services,” said Ms Winnie Byanyima. “We can end AIDS by redoubling our efforts to fight the pandemic, including by reaching people who are most affected by HIV, including young women and girls and key populations.”

Delegates attending the conference called for accelerated innovation to quickly turn the tide against AIDS. They called for the speedy rollout of new HIV prevention options such as long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) which can be administered once every two months to prevent HIV. The World Health Organization has urged countries to consider CAB-LA as a safe and highly effective prevention option for people at substantial risk of HIV infection.

In its World AIDS Day report Let Communities Lead, UNAIDS demonstrated that where communities are at the forefront of the AIDS response, countries were able to make significant progress. The report shows that AIDS can be ended as a public health threat by 2030 if communities on the frontlines get the full support they need from governments and donors, including political and financial backing.

Communities at the conference urged governments to recognize the important work they do. They called for the removal of obstructive laws criminalizing key populations, including LGBTQI people, people who inject drugs and sex workers. Criminalizing key populations prevents them from accessing HIV services, putting the fight against the pandemic at risk.

Non-governmental organizations working to end AIDS often have to operate with insufficient budgets and little political or no political support, limiting their full potential to do their work, including providing life-saving services. Governments need to increase political and financial support, especially for community-led responses and civil society organizations working to end AIDS. Authorities need also to guarantee safe operating environments for community-led organizations by removing harmful laws which criminalize key populations.

UNAIDS

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.