– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase
On the 1st of December every year since 1988, World Aids Day is commemorated across the globe and the theme this year from the United Nations is: ‘Global solidarity, shared responsibility’. This theme could not be more relevant, with the tough times we have been through around the world and potentially to come in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year has brought many people together in many ways and we can use this force to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV. We are able to do so by sharing the responsibility of information distribution and showing compassion in order to remove the stigma attached to HIV. Resilience in this circumstance is important, especially for the individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS that are faced with a compromised health care system due to the coronavirus. Healthcare workers have been put under immense pressure in this unchartered territory, and in the midst of it all they are still expected to continue making an impact with their footprint on the journey of fighting the HIV/AIDs ‘epidemic’.
“In 2019, there were still 38 million people living with HIV infection. In 2019, 690 000 people died from HIV-related causes and 1.7 million people were newly infected, with nearly 2 in three (62%) of these new infections occurring among key populations and their partners.” (World Health Organisation, 2020). These alarming statistics show that despite the efforts made to combat this issue, from the medical perspective, it still is spreading at a concerning rate. People need to be continuously educated on how to protect themselves and their loved ones from HIV and also to fight the discrimination faced by those living with it. World Aids Day serves as a reminder to world leaders to continue to increase awareness on this issue and fund organisations and civil societies that deal with HIV/AIDS related initiatives.
It is important to know your status at all times and stay safe by utilising the available HIV services. The protection of healthcare workers during this time is paramount in effectively addressing the HIV response in the COVID-19 period. .Updated policies that encourage a conducive environment for the public to engage with health care services and effective communication and marketing regarding HIV are now a necessity more than ever.