Each year, December 1 is observed as World AIDS Day. The theme for this year is “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility”.
On this day, we take time to reflect upon the global response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic by remembering the lives lost over the past four decades. We celebrate our achievements over the past years, and pledge to work in even more inclusive and innovative ways over the coming year to end the AIDS epidemic that is still a public health threat.
World AIDS Day this year is being observed in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic. These are challenging times for all of us. COVID-19 is not only directly causing high morbidity and mortality, it is also disrupting essential systems for health, as well as programmes to address HIV and other global health priorities.
Service disruptions associated with COVID-19 are impacting global, regional and national efforts to end the epidemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care. A survey conducted by PANCAP and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) highlighted numerous disruptions in these areas among National Programmes in the Region.
Without strategies to meet these needs, we may see a resurgence of HIV that can threaten our public health response to COVID-19.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that during the pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Leaving people behind is not an option, if we are to succeed. Therefore, the HIV response must be maintained and actions to respond to HIV must be accelerated.
Eliminating stigma and discrimination, putting people at the centre, and grounding our responses in human rights and gender-responsive approaches are crucial to ending the pandemic of COVID-19 and the epidemic of HIV/AIDS.
The theme of global solidarity and shared responsibility highlights the need for all of us to show support for people living with HIV. Solidarity, collaboration, support and individual action are all needed, if we are to end the epidemic.
When our own Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP) was established almost twenty years ago, this was a demonstration of Caribbean solidarity.
It involved Governments, Civil Society Organisations, Regional Institutions and Development Partners committed to working together in response to the threat of HIV to sustainable human development in the Region.
Today, the Partnership stands strong and continues to lead the regional response, guided by the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework, to accelerate progress for achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 Targets and ending AIDS in the Region.
This is all part of the effort to attain the Sustainable Development Goals, which requires an unprecedented level of global solidarity and resolve for us to live in a better world.
The work in the Region must not be halted by the pandemic. The CARICOM Secretariat recognises the hard work of all partners working in the Region and would like to express our appreciation.
I therefore call on all of us to do everything possible to support the HIV response to ensure the sustainability of the gains of the past decades, and to intensify future efforts to end the epidemic.