By Talatu Maiwada
In commemoration of the 2020 World AIDS Day, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an NGO, on Tuesday, urged government, donors and stakeholders to intensify efforts toward ending the scourge by 2030.
Dr Echey Ijezie, the Country Programme Director, AHF-Nigeria, who made the call in a statement in Abuja, said ending AIDS by 2030 must be seen as a shared responsibility by every stakeholder.
He stated that it was important for stakeholders with dogged leadership from government and communities to sustain and expand access of HIV services as the virus still claims thousands of lives every year.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that World AIDS Day is celebrated annually around the world to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who died from AIDS-related illnesses.
Ijezie said the new and timely theme unveiled by AHF: “AIDS, The Other Pandemic” was to remind the world that amidst COVID-19, HIV and AIDS must be kept high on global public health agenda.
“According to the most recent UNAIDS statistics, 38 million people are living with HIV and AIDS around the world.
“In 2019 alone, 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV and 690,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses.
“Millions of people today are accessing the lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy, while millions more still desperately need it.
“All hands must be on deck to meet the Sustainable Development Goals target of ending AIDS epidemic by 2030.”
Terri Ford, the AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy, said it was important that world leaders give attention to HIV on the occasion of the World AIDS Day and beyond by keeping their promises.
He, however, decried the devastation COVID-19 caused communities worldwide and still remained in the spotlight, thus urging stakeholders to keep fighting to protect the gains made so far against the HIV and AIDS scourge.
According to Ford, COVID-19 has justifiably stolen the headlines, but must not forget the pandemic that has been raging over 30 years and remains a global public health crisis.
“The global AIDS response still consistently falls short each year by up to six billion dollars of what is needed to sufficiently fund efforts around the world.
“This gap will likely widen further with the COVID-19 pandemic. Government, donors must improve on and continue HIV prevention efforts ensuring everyone has equitable access to lifesaving care and treatment,’’ he added.
Dr Penninah Iutung, the AHF Africa Bureau Chief, said that in spite of the great strides achieved in the fight against HIV and AIDS around the world, there was still much to be accomplished.
Iutung said people living with HIV in many parts of the world still struggle to get free or affordable testing, anti-retroviral therapy and condoms which are effective way to stop HIV transmission.
He however mentioned the unavailability of HIV vaccine, stressing that guaranteeing prevention and treatment for all was the only way the virus could be brought under control.
Mr Steve Aborishade Advocacy and Marketing Manager AHF-Nigeria said the foundation would be commemorating the day through virtual and social-distanced live events to remember people who lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses.
Aborishade said the event would also raise public awareness via interactive media on the importance of HIV testing, prevention and treatment, as well as encourage advocates on the fight against HIV.
NAN reports that, AHF is the largest global AIDS organization which currently provides medical care and services to over 1.47 million people in 45 countries including Nigeria.