Covid-19 pandemic moves the UN away from its goal of ending AIDS by 2030

La pandemia del sida sigue vigente.


The AIDS pandemic continues.

Photo: JANERIK HENRIKSSON / Getty Images

End AIDS by 2030 It’s one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but another pandemic, that of covid-19, threatens that goal, by disrupting prevention, awareness and treatment efforts for this disease, experts warn on the occasion of the World AIDS Day.

In 2021 40 years have passed since the first known cases were reported in the United States of this disease and although the Joint UN Program on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS) works to ensure that it does not reach half a century, this goal seems to be moving away as the world focuses on fighting the coronavirus.

During the first year of the pandemic, 40 countries reported a decline in HIV testing, vital to prevent the advance of the virus.

The reduction of prevention programs in the current health crisis and the closure of schools, where many of the prevention programs are taught, have been a severe blow to UNAIDS, which warns that 7.7 million people could still die from AIDS in this decade if the fight measures are not resumed or even accelerated.

“It is not a question of choosing between ending the AIDS pandemic or preparing for others: you have to achieve both, it is the only recipe for success, but we are not close to achieving either of them,” lamented the UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.

It is still possible to end this epidemic before 2030, but this will require reinforcing actions and solidarity ”, added the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in his message for the celebration of this international day.

Four decades after the first cases

40 years ago, on June 5, 1981, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reported five cases of pneumonia due to a fungus then called “pneumocystis carinii”, linked to a suppression of the immune system, in five young people from Los Angeles, which is considers the first official registry of AIDS patients.

Since then, this disease has caused almost 35 million deaths (seven times more than those caused so far by covid-19), although mortality has dropped since annual maximums in infections and deaths were reached some 20 years ago.

Since 1998, the year with the highest number of HIV infections (2.8 million), these have been cut by almost half (1.5 million in 2020) and deaths, after their peak in 2004 (1.8 million), have fallen to a third of what they were (680,000 last year).

Vital in this has been that the number of people with access to antiretrovirals has grown from just 560,000 at the beginning of this century (one in 40) to more than 28 million today.

Africa continues to concentrate a large part of the HIV-positive (25.3 million) and AIDS-related deaths (460,000), followed by Asia (5.7 million HIV carriers and 140,000 deaths), according to 2019 figures.

Discrimination in the work area

HIV / AIDS is not only linked to health but also social issues, since despite decades of awareness, HIV-positive people continue to suffer discrimination in areas such as work.

In this sense, a poll published by the International Labor Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the company specializing in polls Gallup International, reveals that around 40% of those surveyed affirm that they do not agree with the integration of people with HIV / AIDS in your workplace.

Tstill more, 60%, support the obligatory nature of HIV tests at workAccording to a survey conducted among 55,000 people from fifty countries, also on the occasion of World Day to Combat AIDS.

These stigmatizing and discriminatory attitudes are fueled by ignorance about the transmission of the virus, since a worrying percentage of more than 70% believe they can be infected with a simple hug or handshake.

“It is shocking that, after 40 years of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, myths and misconceptions are still so widespread,” said the head of the Gender, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) Section of the ILO, Chidi King.

On the positive side, the study indicates that the regions where the stigma towards HIV-positive people persists the most are Asia and North Africa, where almost half of its population is against integrating people with HIV into the workplace.

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