The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS with 25.6 million persons already infected with the virus.
WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said this in her message to commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day.
The day is celebrated every December 1 to draw global attention to the disease and remind stakeholders that the virus is still very much around.
According to her, progress has been made in the past decade with new infections reduced by 44 per cent.
AIDS-related deaths have also been reduced by 55 per cent, she added.
Moeti said the theme for this year’s celebration is: Equalise, repeated a plea to everyone to address the inequalities driving the epidemic and holding back progress toward ending AIDS.
The WHO regional director said the progress was made because the global health monitor and its partners advocated and supported the expansion of new HIV prevention and treatment technologies.
The partners, she said, also provided guidance on combination HIV prevention, testing and treatment, and built capacity in countries to improve data availability and quality.
According to her, others efforts include increased access to affordable medicines, diagnostics and health technologies, and support to national HIV treatment catch-up plans in West and Central Africa.
Moeti said the data from WHO on the global HIV response revealed that since the start of COVID-19 and other global crises, progress against the HIV pandemic had wavered, resources had decreased, with millions of lives at risk.
“Four decades into the HIV response, inequalities persist for the most basic services, like testing and treatment.
“For example, HIV prevention programmes reach only 40 per cent of adolescent girls and young women.
“Only one in three key populations, who are particularly vulnerable to HIV, has regular access to HIV prevention services,” she said.
According to her, they still face significant structural barriers, including criminalisation, discrimination and stigma.
“With only eight years left to the 2030 goal of ending AIDS as a global health threat, coordinated action is required to stop the effects of the epidemic, with a precise focus to reach those most affected.
“At the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on AIDS in 2021, world leaders adopted the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS: Ending Inequalities and Getting on Track to End AIDS by 2030.
“The Heads of State and Government committed to ending all inequalities faced by people living with – and affected by – HIV in communities and countries, which are barriers to ending AIDS,” she said.
Also, at least 43,373 people are living with HIV in Kogi State, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Zakari Usman, has said.
Usman announced this while addressing reporters yesterday in Lokoja, the state capital, as part of activities marking this year’s World AIDS Day with the theme: Equalise.
The commissioner advised residents to disregard misconceptions that HIV had been eradicated.
He said it was advisable to take preventive steps not to get infected, adding that even when infected, it is better to take management measures provided by government.
Usman assured the residents that the state government would not relent in its effort at reducing HIV and AIDS to the barest minimum in the state.
“I assure that government will increase the availability of quality and sustainable services for HIV handling, testing and prevention to reduce its negative impacts.
“Government will also encourage reform laws, policies and practices to tackle the stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV and AIDS.
“Government will as well ensure the sharing of technology to enable equal access to HIV testing in communities.
“Getting tested for HIV is the only way to find out if one is infected as all people living with HIV are eligible for treatment,” he said.
Usman said the World AIDS Day gave opportunities to communities and stakeholders in the fight against HIV and AIDS to foster unity and advance the cause of reducing the scourge.