June 13, 2023
On May 24, health ministrers from across the globe joined health advocates and experts through the Global HIV Prevention Coalition for a UNAIDS high-level discussion to take stock on progress toward ending the epidemic and how the fight for equity in HIV prevention is instrumental to preparing an effective response to current and future pandemics.
UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima kicked off the meeting by highlighting how punitive legislation around stigma and discrimination are holding back the HIV response from achieving the global targets for new HIV acquisitions. She stressed that meaningful investments on prevention and taking action on harmful policies will help prepare for future pandemics. This applies directly to Uganda’s recent passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. Read AVAC’s statement, which condemns the policy and shows how discriminatory policies can and will impede efforts to end the epidemic, and the Joint Statement by the Leaders of the Global Fund, UNAIDS and PEPFAR on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.
PEPFAR Acting Principal Deputy US Global AIDS Coordinator Mamadi Yilla addressed the need to aggressively scale-up the world’s already available prevention products and provide access and availability of choice to those who need it most. She said, “We must treat and provide services for the epidemic we have now. Not the one we used to have or the one we wish we had.”
The Global Fund executive director Peter Sands said the process of requesting investments in HIV prevention isn’t always an easy task noting that money travels further by removing stigma, discrimination, and other barriers to access. “Community led interventions are not just effective at reaching the people most in need [key populations], but they’re also on the whole, very cost effective. Providing comprehensive sexual reproductive health services to adolescents has a huge return on investment way beyond HIV.”
AVAC’s Executive Director, Mitchell Warren, who also co-chairs the Global HIV Prevention Coalition, closed out the meeting by summarizing the evening’s discussion—of which he noted many of the parallels and similarities made throughout the meeting, and by also saying that history will judge us harshly on how we act during this pivotal moment in the epidemic. “The things we say in these rooms, the things we say in Geneva don’t prevent infections. They’re the things we do when we walk out of this room that do. This is the best chance we’ve ever had, in probably the entire history of the AIDS pandemic, to reimagine HIV prevention and to do it with equity and with impact.”