On July 14th, UNAIDS, the United Nations agency for HIV and AIDS, made the big announcement that Millennium Development Goal 6 has been met ahead of schedule. Millennium Development Goal 6 was adopted by the Member countries of the United Nations in the year 2000.
This was especially great news to those of us who have and continue to work on the issue of HIV, and prompts us to continue our commitment to reducing of the impact of the virus in the world.
However, this news has also brought confusion in the midst of the celebration. For this reason, AID FOR AIDS (AFA) would like to share some points to keep in mind as a result of the announcement “UNAIDS announces that the goal of 15 million people on life-saving HIV treatment by 2015 has been met nine months ahead of schedule.”
First, it is necessary to differentiate between HIV and AIDS. Although they are related, it is important to be aware that they are two different things.
HIV is the virus that attacks and destroys the cells of the immune system, responsible for defending us against infections that enter the human body. AIDS is the group of signs and symptoms that occur due to this weakening of the immune system. In this way, if HIV is not diagnosed early and is not treated with the antiretroviral drugs that prevent AIDS, the virus multiplies in the blood. Taking into account this premise, when one reads that “the world has surpassed the goals and is in the process of putting an end to the AIDS epidemic,” it is important to clarify that it only refers to ending AIDS, namely the progression of HIV in the body. It cannot be it said that it is the end of HIV.
According to the current data presented by UNAIDS, more than 36 million people in the world have acquired HIV. These are only the reported cases, not taking into account cases of underreporting, i.e., not counting people who are unaware of their HIV status and only realize they are HIV positive when they develop AIDS.
Then, if we do the math, the celebration is now only for the 15 million people who have access to treatment, which excludes more than the 26 million people who have HIV and no access to treatment.
At AID FOR AIDS we’re committed to ending AIDS, but UN Millennium Development Goal 6 is not yet the end of HIV. For this reason we urge governments, cooperation agencies, organizations working in HIV and the general population to celebrate these 15 million people on treatment and continue working together, doubling efforts, so that one day we can celebrate TOTAL and UNIVERSAL access to HIV treatment.
Thus, at AID FOR AIDS we firmly believe that the way to achieve the end of AIDS (taking into account that HIV and AIDS are different) is through the joint efforts of civil society organizations with services in HIV, governments and other key actors involved in the response.
We ratify our commitment to follow in line with the 90-90-90 initiative which directs us to work towards:
- 90% of people with HIV knowing their diagnosis
- 90% of people with HIV having antiretroviral treatment
- 90% of people with HIV being on treatment and having an undetectable viral load
At AFA we are convinced that the empowerment of people is one of the best strategies to develop to achieve these goals, which translates into the promotion of testing for HIV, prevention and treatment education, knowing and exercising our rights, and strengthening of the health systems of communities for an effective reduction of the impact of HIV in the world; focusing on eradicating stigma and discrimination related to HIV.
The important publication by UNAIDS “how AIDS changed everything,” mentions the progress and achievements made in the last 15 years. It is also relevant to emphasize lessons learned that led us to design and implement programs, which in addition to treatment, included a view of health that includes: food, education, housing, social support, targeting diverse populations and communities, factoring in their age and their specifics.
Currently, AID FOR AIDS works on all the aforementioned issues with indigenous communities in Mexico and Panama, with LGBTI communities in the Dominican Republic and Peru, with people with or without HIV through partnership with educational systems, health systems, private, governmental and non-governmental bodies in all Latin America and the Caribbean. In Panama, we have the 1st center for comprehensive care of children and adolescents with HIV in the region. Every day we create testimonials and continue cultivating actions focused on that which is transcendentally human, offering our services focused on the person as a holistic being.
At AID FOR AIDS, we salute these achievements and we celebrate the successes mentioned by UNAIDS. Everyone should celebrate, because we have been a part of the actions that have led to us being able to count on access to treatment for 15 million people. Now we must continue working for the other 26 million people who need treatment to preserve their health.
We’re counting on you!