The world has changed. The global response to HIV/AIDS must change too. December 1st has traditionally been World AIDS Day – but this year, we urge the global community to reclaim the 1st of December as World HIV Day.
We think this is important, because as we enter the next phase of the global HIV response, we cannot let fear and discrimination drive us backwards.
We must reaffirm and redouble our efforts to end one of the greatest health challenges of our generation.
We have reason for great optimism: dramatic advances in biomedical and behavioral sciences have given us the tools to prevent HIV-related deaths and dramatically reduce new HIV infections. We defeat HIV when we provide access to treatment for all people living with HIV, HIV testing and comprehensive prevention strategies that include PrEP and condom availability, and harm reduction strategies for people who inject drugs that include needle exchange programs and opiate substitution therapy. We defeat HIV when these solutions are delivered by genuinely respecting the rights and dignity of all people living with and affected by HIV.
This epidemic has never been just about a virus. We defeat HIV when we embrace social justice and the fundamental human dignity and leadership of affected populations around the globe. With changes in governments and policies around the world – most recently in the USA – there is a real risk that HIV prevention will be de-prioritized and the results of past efforts undermined.
If we allow it, persecution, blame-assignment and despair will increase and proven science will be ignored, dismantling the progress of the last thirty-five years, driving up new infections and deaths. But, if we make a stand, we can end HIV by prioritizing resources for key populations and meet the challenge of dismantling systems and structures that create poverty and criminalize key populations, and instead harness the power that full access to health care and education provides, in the process creating new structures that support inclusion and diversity.
AIDS was our past challenge, HIV is our present and our future one. The result of our efforts can be a world where we ended a virus, by making an unprecedented sustained global investment in combining science with respect for the human rights of all. This December the 1st – let us commit to creating a World Without HIV. Let’s End HIV.