Time to unite and renew commitment against Aids

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020 00:00 |
National Aids Control Council officials and residents of Nyeri march on the streets to mark World Aids Day in Nyeri town. Photo/PD/Joseph King’ori

Cyphrene Wasike 

Kenya will join the rest of the world today, December 1, to commemorate World Aids Day.

This day is set aside for partners globally to unite, renew commitment and show support for People Living with HIV and Aids as well as remember those who have died from Aids-related illness. 

 Partners in the sector are expected to unite and renew their commitment under the national theme ‘Komesha HIV & Covid-19’ #Tuwajibike’ to support the government’s efforts towards preventing the spread of HIV and Covid-19.

The National theme was derived from the 2020 World AIDS Day Global theme; “Global Solidarity Shared Responsibility”.

The theme underscores significance of individuals, countries and global community uniting in taking responsibility to address HIV and Aids amidst growing list of challenges derailing ongoing global efforts today, including the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This year’s World Aids Day, the 32nd edition since its inception will be commemorated under the new unprecedented norm occasioned by the pandemic, which is threatening to erode gains made against the disease over years.

A recent study by Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS) warned of a possible retrogression in Sub Saharan Africa.

It noted that the global Aids response could be set back if the Covid-19 disrupts HIV services, a situation that should worry all of us.

Like her peers in the region, Kenya is racing against time to attain the ambitious global 90:90:90 targets as it ushers in a defining decade that the global community is determined to attain in ending Aids as a public health threat by 2030.  This is in line with global commitments which Kenya is part of. 

According to Kenya HIV Estimates 2020, Kenya has attained the first 90 and inching closer to attaining the second and third 90.

The 90:90:90 global targets implies that by end of  2020, 90 per cent of people living with HIV should know their status; of which 90 per cent should  be on Antiretroviral Therapy and 90 per cent achieve viral load suppression.  

The 2020 World Aids Day provides an opportunity for stakeholders and partners to re-think strategies, re-imagine systems and devise new innovative ways to combat the two pandemics while ensuring gains made against HIV are safeguarded.

Adoption of strategies used in Kenya’s three decade- long battle against the Aids epidemic to compliment efforts already in place against Covid-19 would be a strategic move.

Community mobilisation, anti-stigma strategies, strong political leadership, multi sectoral approach and strong primary health care offers interesting lessons in the management of HIV which can be leveraged on in the response against Covid-19. 

Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for almost two thirds of global Aids burden is reeling from shrinking donor  support.

The US by far the biggest funder of HIV programme in Kenya is the hardest hit by the pandemic according to WHO figures.

Europe, another important partner, is also struggling to cope with surging Covid-19 numbers, a situation that may further complicate funding matrix as global economy shrinks. 

The effects of global economic meltdown will be felt for years despite promising Covid-19 vaccine trials, which provide hope that maybe, just maybe, the pandemic will be put under control soon.

However, for Kenya and her peers in the region, this should be a wakeup call. It’s time to re-think domestic financing mechanisms to sustain the momentum towards ending HIV and Aids and cushion the country against reliance on unpredictable donor support. — The writer is the communication Officer, National AIDS Control Council 

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