The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has lamented the plight of people living with HIV, saying they are more vulnerable to contract COVID-19. UNAIDS, in its 2021 report unveiled on July 14 noted that widening inequalities were preventing people living with HIV from accessing COVID-19 vaccines and HIV services.
The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Ms Winnie Byanyima, in a statement, said the report showed how COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions disrupted HIV testing and in many countries. “The report, ‘Confronting Inequalities: Lessons for Pandemic Responses from 40 years of AIDS,’ highlighted that in 2020 the 1.5 million new HIV infections were predominantly among key populations and their sexual partners.
“Furthermore, people who inject drugs, transgender women, sex workers and gay men and other men who have sex with men, and the sexual partners of these key populations, accounted for 65 per cent of HIV infections globally in 2020.”
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said, “Nigeria’s rapid mobilisation against COVID-19 is a remarkable lesson that needs to continue to politically mobilise and address social injustices and inequalities in order to end AIDS and change the paradigm for people infected and affected by HIV in Nigeria.”
The National Coordinator, Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Mr Ibrahim Abdulkadir, in the statement called for more government and donor support in improving the quality of services in the country particularly for people infected and affected by HIV.
“We are happy that UNAIDS has recognised our efforts globally for people living with HIV to access their drugs and other services through our work in community led monitoring in Nigeria.
“We need more government and donor support in improving the quality of services in the country particularly for people infected and affected by HIV and key and vulnerable populations. I am happy to say that HIV is no longer a death sentence and I encourage people to test for HIV and know their status,” he said.
The report highlighted that women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa continued to be at a higher risk of HIV infection, with gender inequality and gender-based violence at the centre of their risk.
It said, “Gender inequalities and gender-based violence rob women and girls of their fundamental human rights, including the right to education, health and economic opportunities. This increases their risk of HIV infection and blocks access to services. Of all age groups, adolescent girls and young women have the highest number of new HIV infections in Nigeria, with an estimated 16,000 new infections in 2020.”