Experts Warn of Complacency as the World Drags on Ending AIDS
The just concluded 22nd edition of the International AIDS Conference under the theme ‘Building bridges breaking barriers’ took place on 23-27 July amid fears by UNAIDS that the global commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 could remain a pipe dream. This was revealed by UNAIDS in its Global AIDS Update 2018 report dubbed Miles to go launched days before the biggest global AIDS meeting kicked off in the Dutch Capital- Amsterdam.
According to the report, the recent gains in the AIDS response does not match global ambitions set to be attained by 2020. The report further says that complacency has slowed down the pace of the AIDS response working against efforts to curb new infections, reduce stigma levels and provision of HIV and AIDS services to vulnerable populations. It further says the world is experiencing a ‘Prevention Crisis’ at a half-way mark towards the attainment of global 90:90:90 targets by 2020. Read the report here… https://bit.ly/2NVQUT0
The report thus set the tone for the meeting attended by close to 15,000 delegates who included researchers, scientists, activist, donors, policy makers, Government representatives and the civil society.
Kenya hosts a record five symposia
Kenya once again affirmed her position at the Global stage as a key player during the AIDS 2018 Conference after a well-organized participation through the leadership of the National AIDS Control Council. H.E The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta led the Kenyan delegation which included Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of Health, Dr. Rashid Aman, National AIDS Control Council Chairperson Ms. Angeline Siparo and C.E.O Dr. Nduku Kilonzo. Others were NACCs Deputy Director Dr. Emmy Chesire and Head of National AIDS and STI Control Program me (NASCOP) Dr. Kigen Bartilol among other representatives from the private sector and civil society.
The Conference provided a platform for Kenya to share with the world her achievements, successes and challenges in her three decade long fight against HIV and AIDS. Kenya thus hosted a record five symposia, the highest number ever in an international conference. These included two high level sessions on Leadership and Innovation for Results in Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (eMTCT) and Adolescent Care in which H.E The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta gave a key note address, and Ending the AIDS epidemic and Achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030 in Africa where the Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of Health, Dr. Rashid Aman was the key note speaker. Other sessions were; Youth Leadership in Action; Lesson from Kenya and Beyond from Research to Real World Settings; Scaling up PrEP within National Programs and The elusive 90:90:90 The Experience of Kenya as an early adopter of evidence. All the symposia were co-hosted with the support of partners.
Speaking during the Universal Health Coverage symposium, Chief Administrative Secretary Ministry of Health, Dr. Rashid Aman said that the Government has taken decisive actions towards the realization of Universal Health Coverage- one of the Governments Big Four Agenda. This he noted includes prioritizing HIV in the benefits package as a critical component to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage in Kenya. ‘The inclusion of HIV services in the essential benefits packages is critical. It will encourage People Living with HIV to enroll in national health insurance scheme, this way, increasing the contributory base. It will also fast-track us towards achieving our target seeing as UHC will not be achieved if the 1.5 million people living with HIV in Kenya are left out. Said Dr. Aman.
Kenya’s First Lady Lauded for her efforts towards EMTCT
H.E The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta was lauded for her instrumental role in providing leadership through the Beyond Zero initiative towards Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission in Kenya. As part of her efforts, Kenya has seen a significant drop in new infections from 13,000 in 2010 to 8,000 in 2017.
Addressing participants at the symposium on Leadership and Innovation for Results in Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (eMTCT) and Adolescent Care, The First Lady decried high infection rates among adolescents especially young women. She said more concerted efforts are needed to curb new infections in order to sustain the recent gains in the response against HIV and AIDS. ‘The goal to eliminate new infections among children is not yet within reach. We have way too many preventable deaths among children, not only in Kenya, but globally. We have seen an upsurge in new infections among Adolescents and Young People, especially young women which means that our investments in eMTCT are being wiped out in two decades,’ said the First Lady.
UNAIDS Executive Director Mr. Michel Sidibe while lauding Kenya’s progress in the AIDS response called on more investments to sustain impactful programs that have seen reduction in new infections while keeping those infected with HIV on treatment. This he said will ensure no one is left behind in the fight against the pandemic. “Every child has the right to be born free from HIV. And every child living with HIV should receive life-saving treatment to stay AIDS-free. And every young person should be supported to stay free from HIV. We cannot leave any child or mother behind.” Said Mr. Sidibe.
NACC CEO addresses the plenary, warns of a Prevention Crisis
NACC CEO Dr. Nduku Kilonzo while addressing the plenary on Differentiated models of HIV prevention said the world is starring at a Prevention Crisis as the number of new infections remains unacceptably high. 1.8M people were infected in 2017 globally at a time of dwindling resources for HIV response.
While calling for investment in provision of HIV services to scale, Dr. Kilonzo also urged stakeholders to address structural and legal barriers hindering access to HIV services. “We have to address structural and legal barriers hindering service provision to critical cohorts including Adolescents and Young people as well as key populations,’ she said. Dr. Nduku also warned of complacency noting that basic evidence based program that has proven to turn the tide against HIV and AIDS such as advocacy for appropriate condom use is not given the desired attention while the fight against stigma is not being prioritized.
Apart from hosting five Symposia, the Kenyan team also exhibited at the conference showcasing partner’s efforts towards the AIDS response in the country under a popular hashtag/tagline #KENYAatAIDS2018. The Kenyan team also made 18 oral presentations, presented 143 posters and participated in 43 sessions as chairs and guests speakers.
As the world reflects on deliberations of the conference one thing is clear-‘End of AIDS is in sight’ will remain rhetoric unless we renew our commitment including increasing investment in impactful programs and involving communities that bear the greatest disease burden. The 23rd Edition of International AIDS Conference will be held in San Francisco Carlifonia in partnership with Oakland City, USA in 2020.