Remarks by Ms. Betty Wabunoha UN Resident Coordinator (a.i) and UNDP Resident Representative on World AIDS Day 2021
I bring warm greetings from the United Nations and convey our solidarity with the wonderful people of the Kingdom of Lesotho as we confront the impact of colliding pandemics. The theme for World Aids day this year again reiterates the need to end inequalities which are driving AIDS and other pandemics. Before I deliver my remarks, I would like to read out the UN Secretary General’s message for World Aids Day.
On this World AIDS Day, we focus attention on the inequalities that drive HIV and AIDS.
It is still possible to end the epidemic by 2030. But that will require stepped up action and greater solidarity.
The United Nations General Assembly recently adopted a bold new plan to accelerate progress, including new targets for 2025.
To beat AIDS – and build resilience against the pandemics of tomorrow – we need collective action.
That includes harnessing the leadership of communities to drive change, combatting stigma, and eliminating discriminatory and punitive laws, policies and practices.
We must also dismantle financial barriers to health care and increase investment in vital public services to achieve Universal Health Coverage for everyone, everywhere.
This will ensure equal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care, including COVID-19 vaccinations and services.
Together, let us recommit to end inequalities and end AIDS.
On behalf of the UN family in Lesotho, I thank you for the opportunity to address this gathering. Since 1988, the world has gathered on World AIDS Day to raise awareness about HIV, to reduce HIV related stigma and to remember those whom we have lost to AIDS. Significant progress has been made in the HIV response, but the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has warned that unless we address inequalities that drive the pandemic, we may be faced with an additional 12 million new infections globally over the next decade.
I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Health and National Aids Commission for leading a robust response that has seen infections decline by 55% since 2007, 97% of people living with HIV on treatment out of whom 92% have achieved viral suppression. We are indeed on track to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 in Lesotho, only if we do more and do better.
We congratulate Lesotho for the huge gains that have been made in the HIV response. Despite these achievements, HIV remains a stubborn challenge with 324,000 Basotho estimated to be living with the disease. As we celebrate the gains thus far, it is important to take time to reflect on how we got here and learn lessons that can be used to reach those left behind.
The United Nations has issued a stark warning on inequalities that persist in the HIV response globally. It is only by ending the inequalities that drive the pandemic, that we can overcome it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For Lesotho, despite having achieved so much, adolescent women and young girls, Basotho migrants to South Africa, factory workers, sex workers, single women, uncircumcised men and other key populations bear the brunt of new infections. Men and children continue to lag behind in testing and treatment. Men are more likely to know their status much later than women; more likely to start treatment late, or fall off treatment altogether, and are not achieving viral suppression quickly enough.
We must work harder to bring cutting-edge science, deliver services that meet all people’s needs, protect human rights and sustain adequate financing.
The current trajectory is not bending the curve of new infections quickly enough, and risks an AIDS pandemic that will have lasting impacts on the future economy. We have to move faster on a set of concrete actions agreed by United Nations Member States to address the inequalities that are driving HIV.
Funding for prevention programmes is not adequate at the current scale in Lesotho. We need to invest in comprehensive and targeted prevention programmes and take action to reverse the current situation.
Lesotho also urgently needs sufficient community-led and community-based infrastructure as part of a strong public health system, underpinned by a robust civil society accountability.
We need to protect our health workers and invest in human resources for health to meet our urgent needs and prepare better for future epidemics.
We must protect human rights, build trust in the health systems and ensure that all vulnerable groups have access to social safety nets.
Together we can end AIDS as a public health threat once and for all.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me end by wishing us all a successful and safe World AIDS Day.
Khotso Pula Nala