As Nigerians join the rest of the global community to mark the 2019 World AIDS Day, which is celebrated on every 1 December 2019, the Executive Director of The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), Winnie Byanyima has stressed the need to end the stigma that comes with HIV/AIDS in order to make the world a better place to live for all.
Byanyima made the remarks during a press briefing to commemorate the 2019, World AIDS Day, on 30 November 2019, stating that people living with HIV are more prone to malnutrition and need a healthy and nutritious diet. She added that stigma and discrimination can discourage people living with HIV from getting tested and seeking support.
“Global fund advances in prevention and treatment of HIV and TB have saved millions of lives. But discriminatory attitudes and punitive laws, policies and practices are fueling the epidemics and driving people away from health services.” She added.
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Communities make the difference” being a pivotal year for viral AID global campaign, the UNAIDS has called on governments and people across the world to take action and raise awareness to help people living with HIV have access to treatment today because communities have fought for it every day since the start of the epidemic.
Byanyima said, without communities, 24 million people would not be on treatment today. Without communities led by women living with and affected by HIV, we would not be close to ending new HIV infections among children, raising orphans and caring for the sick.
“People living with HIV are more prone to malnutrition and need a healthy and nutritious diet. Good nutrition is vital for better toleration of HIV drugs, enhance retention in care and maintaining a healthy weight and overall wellness” as reported by UNAIDS.
Studies carried out in different parts of Nigeria show that only half of children living with HIV have access to life-saving treatment.
“I believe in communities. Communities make change happen. Communities are the best hope for ending AIDS because communities have fought against HIV right from the beginning.
“In the face of adversity, communities of gay men, sex workers and people who use drugs have organised themselves to claim their right to health as equal citizens. So, we know that communities have proved their worth. There is no debate there.
“Twenty-five years ago, a Burundi woman called Jeanne was the first person to disclose that she was living with HIV. Today, Jeanne is holding leaders accountable and fighting for the right to health care.
“Pioneers like Jeanne have been joined by younger leaders, like 20-year-old Yana, who was born with HIV in Ukraine. Yana founded Teenergizer, a group bringing together young people across Eastern Europe. In a world where power resides with old men, she wants her peers to have a voice and a choice,” Byanyima explained.
She said that communities make the difference all over the world, however, the way communities are being taken for granted has to change.
On World AIDS Day, UNAIDS salutes the achievements of activists and communities in the struggle against HIV. They remember and we honour all those whom we have lost along the way.
The Executive Director call on governments to open a space so that activists can do the work they do best with communities in the lead and governments living up to their promises saying they will end AIDS.