GENEVA – The World Health Organization on Friday called for non-discrimination in the fight against AIDS and reminded that everybody counts in combating the disease on World AIDS Day.
The WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said health services needed to be altered to ensure that the needs of populations most at risk were met and that stigma and discrimination were not tolerated.
“Everybody counts if we are to achieve universal health coverage and everybody must count if we are to eliminate AIDS and viral hepatitis as public health threats,” he said in a statement.
The doctor asked why, even after decades of recognizing the critical role of communities in driving the HIV response, people most at risk were being left behind, marginalized and discriminated against.
“Why is it that men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs and prisoners, representing 40 percent of new HIV infections in 2016, continue to be denied the most basic health services?”
Moreover, many young women, teenagers, immigrants and displaced people are very vulnerable, according to Tedros.
However, he also said that we have made progress in the last 30 years, as currently there are 21 million people receiving antiretroviral therapy against the disease, enabling them to live full and productive lives.
“Every day, fewer people are becoming infected with HIV and fewer people are dying. But these successes are masking the many disparities and challenges that persist,” Tedros further said.
According to the report “Blind Spot” published Friday by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), less than 50 percent of the men with HIV are under treatment compared to 60 percent of women.
Moreover, men are less likely to have access to HIV treatment and greater risk of dying from AIDS-related diseases, and they accounted for 58 percent of the million deaths related to the disease in 2016.
There are 36.7 million HIV-infected people in the world, of which 20.9 million had access to antiretroviral therapy around the middle of 2017, which is four times more than in 2000 and 1.2 times more in 2015.
Studies also reflect that men are more likely than women to start treatment late or not follow through with it.
“The HIV response has played a critical role in transforming public health, and in turn has influenced the shaping of the universal health coverage agenda,” said the WHO director general.