GERMANY — December 1 has marked World AIDS Day for 35 consecutive years, globally uniting efforts against HIV and AIDS.

This year’s theme, ‘Let Communities Lead,’ emphasizes the pivotal role of communities in the ongoing fight against HIV.

In Berlin, a special World AIDS Day event co-hosted by UNAIDS and 100% Life Ukraine underscored the importance of community involvement.

The event recognized the resilience of communities affected by the war in Ukraine, who have played a crucial role in ensuring the continuity of life-saving HIV services.

Representatives and activists expressed gratitude to the German government and UNAIDS for their support, highlighting the challenges they face and the impact of global solidarity.

Valeriia Rachinska, Director of Human Rights, Gender, and Communities at 100% LIFE Ukraine, emphasized the significance of community leadership in driving life-saving programs.

The organization, the largest patient-led group in Ukraine, collaborates with patients and advocates for those living with HIV in 25 regions.

Germany’s commitment to supporting HIV services amid the war in Ukraine was acknowledged, with €1,050,000 in emergency funding donated to UNAIDS.

This funding facilitated critical support, including temporary accommodation, humanitarian aid, and healthcare services for HIV, hepatitis C, STIs, and tuberculosis in Ukraine, Poland, and Moldova.

Silke Klumb, CEO of the German AIDS Federation, highlighted the vital partnership between government and civil society in ensuring continued access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care services for those affected by the conflict.

While acknowledging progress in addressing HIV and AIDS, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that HIV remains a global public health challenge.

In 2022, 630,000 people died from HIV-related causes, and 1.3 million acquired HIV. WHO aims for 95% of all people living with HIV to have a diagnosis, be on antiretroviral treatment (ART), and achieve a suppressed viral load by 2025.

Countries prioritizing community-led approaches, such as Botswana and Zimbabwe, have surpassed the 95-95-95 targets.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with key partners, is actively supporting communities to lead and inform HIV-related support and resources.

However, as funding for HIV falls to 2013 levels, there is a pressing need to bridge the funding gap for prevention programs and integrate HIV into Universal Health Coverage.

The need to augment financial support and endorse evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies is critical.

Globally, 9.2 million people lack access to essential HIV treatment, resulting in the loss of 1,700 lives daily and 3,500 new infections, according to WHO.

Many individuals are unaware of their HIV status or face barriers to treatment, emphasizing the ongoing public health impact of HIV.

Innovative tools, such as a potent once-daily HIV treatment pill and accessible viral load testing, have propelled advancements.

The zero-risk transmission of HIV from individuals with undetectable virus levels underscores the success of dedicated advocacy and investment.

This achievement serves as a beacon of hope, reinforcing the attainability of the goal to eradicate AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, contingent on sustained political will and financial investments.

Unfortunately, challenges persist, encompassing funding limitations, criminalization, and constraints on the roles of community champions, impeding the progress spearheaded by community leaders. This slowdown impedes global efforts to eliminate AIDS as a public health threat.

Key populations, including men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, sex workers, people who use drugs, and adolescents, continue to face disparities in accessing necessary prevention, treatment, and care services. These inequities contribute to the uneven progress in addressing HIV.

With less than seven years remaining to achieve the 2030 goal, urgent and continuous funding for HIV programs is imperative.

Community leaders play a pivotal role in reaching affected populations, bridging gaps in diagnosis and treatment for children living with HIV.

The 95-95-95 targets, aiming for 95% of people with HIV knowing their status, 95% of diagnosed individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy, and 95% of those on treatment achieving suppressed viral loads, require sustained efforts.

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