Each year on World AIDS Day we take time to reflect upon our worldwide response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by remembering the millions we’ve lost over the past four decades, celebrating our achievements over the past year, and pledging to work in even more inclusive and innovative ways over the coming year.
World AIDS Day is one of the eleven official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization. Government and health officials, non-governmental organizations, and individuals around the world observe the day, often with education on AIDS prevention and control. As of 2017, AIDS has killed between 28.9 million and 41.5 million people worldwide, and an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Thanks to recent improved access to better treatment in many regions of the world, the death rate from the AIDS epidemic has decreased since its peak in 2005.
Both HIV and COVID-19 are exposing and exacerbating inequalities. They show us once again that good health is much more than simply who can see a doctor; how health is interlinked with equality, human rights, and social protection. Despite some remarkable progress in the AIDS response, before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not on track to reach the global AIDS targets that were agreed by the Member States in 2016.
COVID-19 is now threatening to reverse this hard-won progress. The 2020 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report shows that treatment scale-up has slowed and estimates that COVID-related disruptions could still cause an additional 123,000 to 293,000 HIV infections and 69,000 to 148,000 AIDS-related deaths. We need to act urgently to protect gains and scale-up efforts to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.