UNAIDS Urges Investment in Community Leadership to End AIDS
24th International AIDS Conference, Montreal, Canada.

As donors withdraw from HIV, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has chosen to focus on the importance of community-led interventions to end the AIDS pandemic for World AIDS Day on 1 December.

“There has been an unprecedented backsliding in financial commitments to community-led organisations, and it is costing lives,” according to UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, writing in her organisation’s annual World AIDS Day Report released on Tuesday.

“Crackdowns on civil society and on the human rights of people from marginalised communities are obstructing the progress of HIV prevention and treatment services, putting the fight against AIDS at risk,” she added.

“Harmful laws and policies towards people from populations at risk of HIV threaten the lives of community activists trying to reach them with HIV services. Too often, decision-makers treat communities as problems to be managed, rather than as leaders to be recognised and supported.”

The report is “an urgent call to action for governments and international partners to enable and support communities in their leadership roles”, according to UNAIDS.

People living with and affected by HIV have been particularly influential in the HIV response, according to the report.

“They are the trusted voices. Communities understand what is most needed, what works, and what needs to change.”

A United Nations high-level meeting on AIDS in 2021 adopted a political declaration that contains various commitments to recognise community initiatives. These include that, by 2025, community-led organisations should deliver 30% of testing and treatment services, 80% of HIV prevention services for people from populations at high risk of infection, and 60% of programmes to support societal changes that enable an effective and sustainable HIV response. 

In addition, they agreed on the 10–10–10 targets to remove punitive laws against LGBTQI people, people who use drugs, sex workers and people from other often criminalised populations, and to reduce stigma and discrimination, gender inequality and violence experienced by people living with HIV and people from key populations and priority populations

The report includes nine guest essays by community leaders that show how they have been able to drive change, how they experience obstacles in their way, and the actions they are urging governments and international partners to take to enable communities to lead us to the end of AIDS by 2030.

Image Credits: Marcus Rose/ IAS.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.