We join the rest of the world to mark WORLD AIDS DAY 2021 with the theme “END INEQUALITIES, END AIDS, END PANDEMICS”.
Over the past 40 years, issues surrounding HIV have continued to be on the front burner when discussing health, socioeconomic and cultural. Despite the target to End AIDS by 2030, a lot of factors are brought about by inequalities and pandemic has posed a serious threat to the world that may miss this target.
Ending AIDS by 2030 would have been possible, however, the various degrees of inequalities that still exist is making this look like a mirage. This has been compounded by emergence of COVID-19 pandemic that has taken over the world’s attention to a very large extent.
The inequalities that exist and the current pandemic have many things in common that fuels the spread of HIV and contributing to new infections and cases of AIDS that are still recorded in the world today.
The factors that are believed to be fueling the spread of the HIV virus are related to the whole spectrum of societal life, thus they are economic, social and cultural in nature. Some of the identifiable factors are affected by varying degrees of inequalities that exist. These factors fueling the spread of HIV are the hallmark of Inequalities and Pandemic.
Inadequate information on HIV, AIDS and Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), where those who need it more do not have access while those with access feel they do not need it. Limitation and restrictions of discussions of HIV, AIDS and SRH, in families, between parents and children. Faith based institutions. High disparity in the knowledge base between women and men (Men are exposed to more information than women). The youth get information through fragmented sources that are inadequate and unreliable.
Gender inequalities that make women and girls vulnerable to HIV and AIDS: Gender differences are clearly noticeable in communities where we operate. A society that prescribes male control over their women’s bodies such that they can hardly negotiate safer sex. Rising cases of various forms of gender based violence, intimate partner violence etc.
Another blow is the low economic status of the citizens that have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the inflation rate. This has negatively affected the existing crisis situation of the HIV response. COVID-19 shifted attention from a lot of things including the HIV response. It also increased the factors that fuel the spread of HIV. We can then infer that the infection that may be taking this place during this period if not addressed would become like a bomb in the years to come.
Considering the prolonged nature of COVID-19 and the various mutations occurring, the authorities need to go back to the drawing board to address issues holistically. Paying attention to COVID-19 and neglecting other condition that requires attention is just like sowing a monstrous seed for the future. All responses should be mainstreamed at the same time and where possible a high level of integration should be done.
Addressing the various forms of inequalities that exist in our society would in turn yield a positive outcome for a whole lot of things including the HIV response.
This is wake up call for a tone from the top, starting with President and his team, the National Assembly, All the State Governors, Non State Actors on the need to realization that whatever may have distracted us from the HIV response, did not eliminate HIV. If we must End AIDS by 2030, there is the need for us ALL to have a sincerity of purpose in dealing with inequalities and the pandemic.
Dr. Bright Oniovokukor
South South Zonal Coordinator
Civil Society for HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (CiSHAN)