Q&A on HIV/AIDS: "We must not be victims of our own success"
Maternal Health Much has been achieved towards ending the AIDS epidemic says UNAIDS Executive Director, who answers five questions and says it's time to step up action again.
We asked Michel Sidibé, about traditional beliefs and complacency hindering the fight against HIV/AIDS, and he explained who is working to combat these ideas, and what the UN are planning next:
"We do need to deal with taboos surrounding HIV and completely change the way we talk about sexuality in society. People have to be courageous and speak up for sexual education and highlight just how critical it is. We have to make sure that girls have access to information early and give them the skills to help them deal with their sexuality in a more empowered manner. We have seen that with each additional year of secondary education reduces the risk of HIV infection by about 11 per cent for adolescent girls and young women."
"Our success has been remarkable. It used to take us five or six years to get one million people on treatment; today, it takes us six months; and, today, we have more than 19 million people on treatment globally. Once, the biggest challenge we faced was to break the conspiracy of silence about HIV. Today, however, the biggest challenge we are facing is complacency. We need to make sure that we are not victims of our own success."
"I just came from a meeting with the African Union where African heads of state endorsed a plan to deploy two million community health workers across Africa by 2020. That's so important because we need to reinforce the interface between health service providers and the community to better monitor what is going on in each community. That way we can quickly make sure that pregnant women have access to health services and monitor them not only for HIV, but for all health issues. Having a good system at community level could also help monitor and stop epidemic diseases."
"I'm convinced we can, but more still needs to be done. We need to deal with underlying causes of HIV: stigma, discrimination, lack of economic empowerment, bad laws, violence against women and the fact that men are not coming forward for testing. We have a major failure on the part of men between 20 – 39 years old. They are not tested, are HIV positive and continue to transmit the virus to young women, and so the cycle starts again."
"My parents taught me never to discriminate. They told me I was born on the privileged side of the road — and that I should cross it. They taught me not to build walls or leave anyone behind. For them, it was always about social justice and refusing exclusion. That motivated me and continues to do so. If we can reduce AIDS-related deaths and ensure that more babies are born without HIV by 2020 — well, for me it would be the best success story I could have. And I could retire happily knowing that, at some point, HIV will no longer be a threat to women, and that there is hope for a new generation."
Photo credits: UNAIDS