Our Battle Towards Ending the Public Health Threat and Increasing Access to Vital Resources
December 1st 2023 marks the 35th year the world commemorates World AIDS Day. This year’s theme, ‘Remember and Commit’, offers an opportunity to honour those we have lost, as well as to continue to take steps towards minimising the threat posed by the condition.
Here, we speak to Shameet Thakkar, managing director of Unimed Procurement Services, who through his role works towards improving global health and reducing inequalities in access to care.
He says: “World AIDS Day has played an essential role in focusing international attention on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It has been a catalyst for developments in prevention, treatment, and support, while also highlighting the importance of combating stigma and discrimination.
“There is no doubt we have made some significant progress throughout the years, but our fight has certainly not come to an end.
“According to UNAIDS statistics, in 2022, 39 million people were living with HIV, and 1.3 million people were newly infected with the virus. However, only 76% of people infected are estimated to have been able to access treatment last year.
“Given this data, it is clear that more should be done to intensify our support and improve accessibility to resources. Yet providing support involves more than just helping people living with HIV and AIDS in the short term. It is part of a much bigger battle to call on governments, organisations, and individuals to increase solidarity and advocate for effective policies and funding.
“UNAIDS estimates that in 2025, US$ 29 billion will be needed for the AIDS response in low- and middle-income countries to be in a position to end AIDS as a public health threat.
“But ending this devastating public threat requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach.
“Building awareness becomes vital in educating communities at risk on the importance of access to care and treatment, and crucially, the role of prevention, which remains a critical aspect of ending the HIV epidemic.
“Widespread testing and early diagnosis are crucial. Expanding access to voluntary testing and promoting regular testing can help identify cases early, reduce transmission, and enable individuals to access the care they need.
“Nevertheless, treatment services remain important, too. Ensuring that individuals diagnosed with HIV have access to antiretroviral therapy universally, thus improving the health of those living with the virus but also reducing the risk of transmission to others, is instrumental.
"Therefore, working to eliminate barriers to treatment and make it available to those who need it most, particularly developing nations, is a necessity.
“And if we are to stay ahead of the virus, continued research into new prevention methods and treatment regimens should be prioritised. This commitment, both at the national and international levels, is essential.
“Global cooperation in particular is essential to address the threat effectively, facilitating increases in funding and sharing of best practices, as well as reducing trade barriers to ensure the availability of medications and preventive tools.
"Overall, even in spite of our accomplishments to date, stigma and discrimination against those affected remain major obstacles.
“In the context of World AIDS Day, encouraging increased understanding, empathy, and acceptance is a vital part of our journey towards a better future for communities affected and those at risk.
“This year's theme underscores the collective responsibility we all share, and perpetuates the notion that despite the advancements we are celebrating today, we simply cannot forget about those we have lost, and that our battle to save others is far from over.”