Published: December 1st, 2023
MEDIA RELEASE: 30 November 2023
On World AIDS Day, Pacific Friends of Global Health congratulates the Australian Government for its $12 million commitment to fight HIV in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Working in collaboration with local counterparts to strengthen community empowerment, to combat stigma and discrimination, and enhance testing and treatment, the program is well in tune with the theme of World Aids Day 2023, “Let Communities Lead”.
“This solid commitment from the Australian Government marks a significant step forward in our collective efforts to combat HIV in Southeast Asia and the Pacific,” said Nossal Institute Hon. Professor Helen Evans. “These funds will enable local communities and governments to work in equal partnership to make real progress in improving access to essential services and in breaking down the barriers that hinder effective HIV prevention and treatment.”
While Australia has made huge progress and despite ongoing efforts, HIV continues to pose a major public health threat globally. In 2022, approximately 39 million people were living with HIV, and the disease had claimed over 40.4 million lives. Inequities, human rights threats, and challenges to gender equality are significant hurdles in the mission to end AIDS as an epidemic by 2030. Notably, new infections have increased in certain areas, particularly among key and vulnerable populations.
“Communities around the world, especially those in remote and underserved areas, are at the forefront of the battle against HIV. The challenge is compounded by stigma and discrimination, as HIV disproportionately impacts men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers,” Professor Evans added. “The resilience and innovation of people in affected communities in delivering HIV care and prevention programs should inspire us all. We must support local communities and amplify their efforts for greater impact.”
Professor Evans said continued support for the The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is vital. The Global Fund is the world’s key financing institution for the global HIV response along with the USA government’s PEPFAR program .
The Global Fund’s 2023-2028 Strategy has a very strong focus on the engagement and leadership of affected communities, ensuring that no one is left behind and that services are tailored to the needs of the most at-risk individuals.
However, the work of these communities is often jeopardized due to inadequate resources, equipment, and support. Protecting community health workers and peer educators from stigma, discrimination, violence, and criminalization is essential for the continuation of their vital roles. Remunerating these workers is also crucial for sustaining their efforts.
In 2022, 630,000 people died from AIDS-related causes, deaths that could have been prevented through early diagnosis, effective therapy, and management of co-infections. The Global Fund, providing 28% of all international financing for HIV programs, has been pivotal in reducing AIDS-related deaths by 72% and new infections by 61% since 2002 in the countries where it operates.
In these countries, significant progress has been made: 86% of people living with HIV knew their status, 78% were accessing treatment, and 72% achieved viral suppression. However, these figures still fall short of the global targets set for 2025.
To effectively and equitably combat HIV, availability of both existing and innovative tools is essential. Innovations in treatment, such as the introduction of dolutegravir-based formulations and pediatric HIV treatments, have shown promising results. Moreover, advancements in prevention methods, like oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and long-acting PrEP, are vital in preventing new infections.
“The Australian Government’s $12 million commitment is a significant additional step that will strengthen and underpin its consistent support for the Global Fund. We are heartened by this show of solidarity and commitment,” Professor Evans concluded. “By increasing investments and accelerating actions, we can work towards ending AIDS as an epidemic by 2030. It’s a daunting challenge, but with the right support and resources, it is within our reach.”
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