As AIDS is a global catastrophe, an issue with eco- nomic, social and security implications there is a need for adopting a joint strategy by all sections of the society to eradicate this menace from the globe.
The world has made significant progress since the late 1990s, but HIV remains a major global public health issue. And like many other major health issues, it faced additional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services are all being disrupted particularly in countries with fragile heath systems. The breakdown in essential HIV services due to COVID-19 threatened lives of AIDS patients. Slowing down in provision of these services left many vulnerable populations at greater risk of HIV infection and AIDS-related deaths. Nevertheless, all over the world, health workers and community repre- sentatives stood fully determined in doing their utmost to keep services going, adopting innovative ways to overcome disruptions in services caused by COVID-19.
It is pertinent to mention here that there is an unneces- sary stigma attached to the victims of this dreadful dis- ease due to ignorance among the common people and this could become a social hurdle in providing requisite life saving services for AIDS or Covid effected among this most vulnerable lot. It needs to be realized by one and all that it is the life and death challenge of present times with which every individual stands affected even if all are not infected. 1st December having been desig- nated World AIDS Day since 1988 and dedicated to raise awareness about AIDS one of the world’s most destructive pandemics in the history, itself speaks of the concern and importance of the fight against AIDS at the international level. The day being an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS and support the people living with the HIV, it is time for the people in India too to be proactive partners in this global fight the theme for which this year is ‘Equalize’.
Under the theme WHO has called on the global leaders and citizens to boldly recognize and address the inequalities which are holding back progress in ending AIDS; and equalize access to essential HIV services particularly for key populations men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, prisoners and migrants besides their partners.
Moreover everyone should work to eliminate the injus- tices that is impeding the fight to end AIDS, according to UNAIDS. Under the theme special focus would be on reaching people left behind. It is an acknowledged fact that the inequalities on a large scale continue even today and WHO and its partners are highlighting the growing inequalities in access to essential HIV servic- es. The UNAIDS vision aims at achieving zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS relat- ed deaths which though seems difficult but not impos- sible to achieve if various agencies come together to work in unison for the common goal. The first and fore- most step in this direction is to end the social stigma, prejudice and discrimination meted out to these patients which is possible only with increased aware- ness and education on the issue among masses. With individuals, government and civil society engaging in meaningful and effective collaboration to achieve suc- cess in achieving the goal, Media has the most impor- tant role to play in raising awareness by focusing atten- tion on what is being done and what more needs to be done especially amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pan- demic. In fighting the menace of HIV/AIDS that is directly or indirectly affecting one and all, media has been doing an impressive job but much more needs to be done. Vision, dedication and above all the creative programming that truly engages audiences with riveted attention should be the hallmark. Media must build alliances and partnerships to put pressure on those at the helm of governance to take the disease seriously and provide to the people the necessary information required to protect them. Let us all take the call to focus on eradicating the inequalities thus implementing the slogan ‘EQUALIZE’ especially against the vulnerable groups already at risk and expand coverage to children and adolescents. For this everyone needs to con- tribute and augment the ongoing efforts to end AIDS and make the world a healthier place.