Keep AIDS advocacy on political agenda

UNAIDS Director – Latin America and Caribbean says…

Shrinking space and reduced funding is affecting HIV advocacy in the region and director of UNAIDS Latin America and Caribbean Regional Support Team Dr Cesar Nunez said communities must ensure AIDS advocacy remains on the political agenda.

“We highlight the role of communities at a time when reduced funding and a shrinking space for civil society are putting the sustainability and advocacy efforts in jeopardy,” Dr Nunez said.

He identified communities including peer educators, networks of people living with our affected by HIV, community health workers, civil society organisations and grass-roots activist.

“Greater mobilisation of communities is urgently required. The strong advocacy role played by communities is needed more than ever to ensure that AIDS remain on the political agenda, that human rights are respected and that decision-makers and implementers are held accountable.”

“Community organizations in the Caribbean play a critical role in ensuring that HIV prevention, testing and treatment services get to the hardest-to-reach communities including poor people, youth, gay and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and migrants.”

“We also need renewed efforts to reach men and boys with services across the region,” Dr. Nuñez said. He advocated that the work of community-led organizations is unique and powerful and can have a substantial impact on how the world fears towards ending AIDS. “

Although AIDS-related deaths have declined in the region, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said HIV testing and treatment process has slowed.

The organisation said the slowing progress in the region is in great part due to insufficient scale-up in treatment services among people living with HIV in Haiti, which has the largest HIV burden in the region. However, it noted that once on treatment at least 86 per cent of diagnosed Haitians are virtually suppressed.

UNAIDS said ensuring communities have the power to advocate and serve is critical to ending AIDS in the Caribbean as it commemorated World AIDS Day on December 1 with a theme Communities make the difference.

In a statement UNAIDS said it is an important time to recognise the essential role that communities play in the AIDS response at both the national and regional levels.

“Their leadership and advocacy ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind. “

Reporting on the progress in the Caribbean, the organisation said there were 16,000 new HIV infections in 2018, a 41 per cent reduction from 2000. AIDS-related deaths last year was estimated at 6,700. There has been a 67 per cent decline in deaths due to AIDS in the region since the turn of the century but the organisation noted that HIV testing and treatment process in the region has slowed.