Preserving Progress Toward Ending the HIV Pandemic Demands Resilience, Resources with Impacts This World AIDS Day
In the face of new challenges to the access to testing, prevention, care and treatment necessary to stop HIV transmissions, infections, illnesses and deaths at home and globally, the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day: Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact must drive the efforts ahead. We must be resilient as we gain control of the COVID-19 pandemic and reclaim our momentum toward ending HIV as a pandemic. We must honor the impacts of science, activism and advocacy that have put the end of HIV as a pandemic within our sights.
Still, the setbacks to global and domestic HIV responses brought by the new pandemic will be felt for years to come. Disruptions to HIV testing, prevention and treatment services threaten momentum toward global treatment targets as well as toward the goals of the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative.
Without swift and strong efforts, disruptions in HIV treatment threaten the additional loss of 500,000 lives to preventable AIDS-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa, while interruptions to prevention of mother-to-child transmission services could double the number of children infected with HIV and in need of lifelong treatment in countries that include Uganda, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
At home, clinics across the United States have reported declines in HIV screening and pre-exposure prophylaxis uptake and access, as well as declining rates of people with suppressed viruses — a crucial measure of protecting individual health and preventing HIV transmissions.
The lessons of both the past and the present tell us that we have no time to spare. Disparate access to health for some is costly to all. Immediate and sustained funding will be essential for HIV programs to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and to address the health inequities underscored and exacerbated by the ongoing crisis. HIV response programs and platforms, including those developed by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, that have been stretched to include COVID-19 responses in low- and middle-income countries will need emergency resources to sustain progress made over the last decade and a half.
We urge the U.S. Congress to lose no further time in passing a comprehensive COVID-19 funding bill that includes:
- Additional resources for PEPFAR to address the pandemic’s impact on HIV programs and to support its work in the global response to COVID;
- Additional resources for the Global Fund to bolster health systems in low- and middle-income countries, respond to COVID-19 and sustain HIV, TB and malaria services;
- Additional funding for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to prevent people with HIV from losing access to services due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath;
- Funding to strengthen critical public health programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent escalations of HIV and hepatitis C cases and sexually transmitted infections.
Finally, on this World AIDS Day, we call on political leaders across party lines to re-commit to ending the impacts of the HIV pandemic at home and around the world.