Every year, on 1 December, the world commemorates World AIDS Day. People around the world unite to show support for people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS.
In 2020, the world's attention has been focused by the COVID-19 pandemic on health and how pandemics affect lives and livelihoods. COVID-19 is showing once again how health is interlinked with other critical issues, such as reducing inequality, human rights, gender equality, social protection and economic growth. With this in mind, this year the theme of World AIDS Day is "Global solidarity, shared responsibility".
COVID-19 has demonstrated that, during a pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Leaving people behind is not an option if we are to succeed. Eliminating stigma and discrimination, putting people at the centre and grounding our responses in human rights and gender-responsive approaches are key to ending the colliding pandemics of HIV and COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the entrenched inequalities existing in our societies. This health crisis, like many others, is hitting the poorest and the most vulnerable the hardest.
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the challenges faced by people living with HIV, women and girls and key populations, including in accessing life-saving health care, and the crisis has widened the social and economic inequalities that increase the vulnerability of marginalised groups to HIV.
However, this crisis has also been a wake-up call, an opportunity to do things differently — better, and together. In many respects, the defeat of AIDS as a public health threat depends on how the world responds to COVID-19.
The leadership and engagement of communities, instrumental in the success of the AIDS response, has also been key in responding to COVID-19. There are countless examples of how community activism and solidarity have been paramount in providing people affected by HIV with information, services, social protection and hope. However, such solidarity cannot be the sole responsibility of communities. Governments, donors, faith leaders, civil society and each and every one of us need to contribute to making the world a healthier place.
Global solidarity and shared responsibility requires us to view global health responses, including the AIDS response, in a new way. It requires the world to come together to ensure that:
Health is fully financed: Governments must come together and find new ways to ensure that health care is fully funded. No one country can do it alone. Domestic and international funding for health must be increased.
Health systems are strengthened: Investments in the AIDS response in the past few decades have helped to strengthen health systems and have been supporting the COVID-19 response. But more needs to be done to further strengthen health systems and protect health-care workers.
Access is ensured: Life-saving medicines, vaccines and diagnostics must be considered as public goods. There must be global solidarity and shared responsibility to ensure that no individual, community or country is left behind in accessing life-saving health commodities.
Human rights are respected: A human rights approach applied everywhere will produce sustainable results for health. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fault lines in society and how key populations have been left behind in many parts of the world.
The rights of women and girls, and gender equality, are at the centre. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected women's livelihoods, which have been disproportionally affected by lockdown measures, and lockdowns have increased violence against women in household settings. Women must be included in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
The world cannot afford rollbacks in decades of hard-won gains in gender equality. Now is the moment for bold leadership for equal societies, the right to health for all and a robust and equitable global recovery.