World AIDS Day 2017: Ensuring Access to HIV Treatment and Prevention
Over 1 million people die from AIDS-related causes each year while 2.1 million people become newly infected by HIV. More than 35 million people have died of HIV infection related causes since the virus was discovered as the cause of AIDS in 1984, which makes it one of the most deadly pandemics in history.
Despite these horrifying statistics, there has been progress. According to 2016 figures, more than 19.5 million of the 36.7 million people living with HIV received treatment, and 76 per cent of all pregnant women living with HIV worldwide received medication to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies. Because of these medications, only a small percentage of the babies of mothers living with HIV are born with the virus and most people diagnosed with HIV can lead a normal life.
Dy Sokha is a peer counselor for the ARV Users Association in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom for UNAIDS.
Quality preventative care is crucial to reduce the number of new infections. This is why PrEP is so important for those at high risk of contracting HIV.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is when those at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their odds of getting infected. Daily PrEP can stop HIV from seizing and spreading throughout the body.
This reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 per cent and reduces the risk by more than 70 per cent. Combining PrEP with condoms and other prevention methods lowers the risk of getting HIV from sex even more.
Yet, the most ostracized people in society, and the most vulnerable to HIV, are frequently the least able to access prevention methods or treatment option. They include sex workers, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and migrants. This is why the theme for World AIDS Day is My Health, My Right.
The theme encourages people to share their views and worries around ensuring their own right to health and to create a movement emphasizing the importance of eradicating health inequalities.
My health, my right
In the words of UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr. Michel Sidibé, “the right to health is a fundamental human right—everybody has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.” This includes the right of everyone, including people living with and affected by HIV, to the prevention and treatment of ill health, to make decisions about one’s own health and to be treated with respect and dignity and without discrimination.
Everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live, has a right to health, which is also dependent on adequate sanitation and housing, nutritious food, healthy working conditions and access to justice.
The right to health is supported by, and linked to, a wider set of rights. Without the conditions to ensure access to justice, the right to a clean environment, the right to be free from violence or the right to education, for example, we cannot fulfil our right to health.
Ending AIDS as a public health threat can only happen if these rights are placed at the centre of global health, so that quality health care is available and accessible for everyone and leaves no one behind.
This year’s World AIDS Day campaign will focus on the right to health.
In the lead-up to 1 December, the #myrighttohealth campaign will explore the challenges people around the world face in exercising their right to health.
The #myrighttohealth campaign will provide information about the right to health and what impact it has on people’s lives. It will also aim to increase the visibility around the need to achieve the full realization of the right to health by everyone, everywhere.
Almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals are linked in some way to health, so achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending the AIDS epidemic, will depend heavily on ensuring the right to health.
Starting from 6 November, the campaign will offer a space for people to express their views on the right to health and what needs to be done to ensure that everyone can realize that right.