Follow the science
The message is clear: UN Member States must follow the science. To advance the HIV response, Member States must agree on an evidence-based political declaration, as well as implement evidence-informed national responses.
The United Nations High-level Meeting (HLM) on HIV and AIDS in mid-2021 marks 40 years since AIDS was first reported. Attention falls squarely on the progress made so far and what must still be done to strengthen the response to HIV. The UN HLM decides on the targets that will shape the next decade of the HIV response. Unavoidably, the impact of COVID-19 on the HIV response so far and to come is central to its discussions.
Four decades of responding to HIV demonstrate the importance of science. The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder that following the science is an inherently political decision. The HIV response must seize the opportunity and capitalize on the political commitment towards public health generated by COVID-19. Here, we outline the science that should be followed, highlight the gaps that science has yet to fully address, and call attention to the policy and practice that should be adapted according to the science.
UN Member States affirm commitment to end AIDS
Member States adopted the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS at the UN HLM. The 22-page declaration, titled “Ending inequalities and getting on track to end AIDS by 2030”, expresses “deep concern and regret that the international community did not meet the 2020 targets … despite the fact that we have the knowledge and tools to prevent every new HIV infection and each AIDS-related death”. It carries the message: “The end of AIDS is in reach, but urgent action is needed.”
The IAS welcomes the declaration as a step in the right direction and notes that it makes progress in the three areas of the IAS 2021-2025 Organizational Strategy: promote science, support action and empower people. However, the IAS is concerned that some Member States voted against the declaration, weakening it. To move ahead in the response to HIV – and other pandemics – there must be global solidarity.
Waiving patents and increasing flexibility on intellectual propriety rights will make life-saving HIV treatment and COVID-19 vaccines available to millions more people. This demands bold action and strong political leadership that goes further than what Member States agreed on in the declaration.