Today, on World AIDS Day, it is time to take stock on how far we have come, gather our forces and renew our commitment to work together towards zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
With the world population surpassing 7 billion, economies constrained by limited resources and the recognition of common root causes of sexual and reproductive ill health and HIV, sound policies and action demand a focus on comprehensive and integrated approaches.
The opportunity to improve health for everyone lies in strengthening integrated services. A key strategy to accelerate progress is forging and cultivating partnerships between the sexual and reproductive health and HIV communities, including networks of people living with HIV.
By integrating services, we can improve their quality and accessibility, which means more people will use them. This also improves health and behavioural outcomes, including condom use, people's knowledge about HIV, the health of women and their children and eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Addressing HIV as part of normal core services in a medical facility will also help to reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
Too many young people still lack full knowledge about how to prevent HIV infection and often face challenges in accessing the services they need. Investing in young people’s health and education, including sexuality education, is a smart strategy with long-term benefits. By putting young people at the centre of the response, their leadership, initiative and energy can be unleashed for positive change.
In a world of 7 billion people, for every person to enjoy equal rights and dignity, we must focus on equity and reach out to the most vulnerable and underserved populations. By ensuring equal rights and dignity, we can empower people so that they can reach their full potential. And as our numbers grow in the years ahead, it is critical that we take actions now to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and that every young person is free of HIV and AIDS.