46th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board
The NGO Delegation wants to thank Winnie for her work since she took over as Executive Director only six months ago. And it has been an eventful six months. If last year's figures are a guide, in six months globally, there were 385,000 AIDS-related deaths and another 850,000 people have newly acquired HIV. Across regions from Asia Pacific to Europe, North America, Middle East and North Africa, key populations and their sexual partners accounted for between 78%- 95% of these new HIV infections. And we can assume with the increased targeting of key populations, human rights violations, and the disruptions to HIV services and supplies as a result of the impact of COVID-19, the actual figures of the last six months could be far worse.
In the last six months, we have all been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has reshaped the world and exposed existing inequalities and flaws in health systems worldwide. During these trying times, we cannot forget the unfinished business of one of the most serious and ongoing global public health challenges: HIV and AIDS.
The last six months was also a challenging time to take on the reins of the Joint Programme, given the various crises UNAIDS had gone through in the last few years. It was indeed a trial by fire for Winnie’s first six months as UNAIDS ED.
Under Winnie’s leadership, we have heard the much-needed calls that health must be a human right. We have heard her speak of the underlying causes and inequalities that continue to drive new infections and unnecessary AIDS-related deaths. We have seen the Joint Programme leverage their expertise in responding to HIV and AIDS to the COVID-19 crisis, monitoring and responding to impacts on HIV treatment, prevention and care, and calling on governments and donors to centralise and partner meaningfully with key populations and communities as necessary for effective emergency health responses.
We appreciate Winnie’s efforts in restoring the much-needed staffing capacity to the issue of IP and access to medicines. The impact of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on imports, exports, cargo systems, and human resources have resulted in disruptions to supply chains and stock-outs, and concerns these impacts will endure, resulting in escalating costs to ARVs. We note the efforts of UNAIDS in forging close partnerships with stakeholders, including manufacturers and countries that are key to the local production of generic HIV drugs and pushing for coordinated action to mitigate disruptions to supply chains, and ensure the distribution of medicines to where these are needed.
However, much remains to be done. Now more than ever, we need a stronger voice to build on the successes of the HIV response, maintain the gains, strengthen and forge partnerships, and monitor and fight human rights abuses. In the responses to COVID-19, we witnessed human rights abuses, increased stigma and discrimination, continued attacks on key populations, escalation of gender-based violence, and impacts on critical HIV services and programming, such as harm reduction, SRHR, and other key population led programmes. It remains vital to ensure that communities are at the centre, to promote rights-based approaches, and to address the structural and regulatory determinants of health to ensure responses to HIV are strengthened and not lost in responses to COVID-19.
We remain vigilant and hopeful that Winnie will lead the UNAIDS we need to meet ambitious HIV targets in this challenging environment.
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