Each year on World AIDS Day (December 1) we take time to reflect upon our worldwide response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by remembering the millions we’ve lost over the past four decades, celebrating our achievements over the past year, and pledging to work in even more inclusive and innovative ways over the coming year.
The U.S. Government (USG) theme for World AIDS Day 2020 – Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact is especially poignant this year as our HIV community has been newly challenged by, and often led the response to, COVID-19 in communities around the globe. COVID-19 has not only forced us to adapt our response to HIV/AIDS in communities to ensure continuity of services, but also reinforced the urgency of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.
The theme reminds us of all we can achieve together when we focus on impact by using data to deliver high quality, people-centered HIV prevention and treatment services to those most in need, tackling stigma and discrimination, and empowering communities. It reaffirms the essential role of resilience, which enables individuals and communities to meet the challenge of HIV/AIDS even in times of adversity.
Globally, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the USG has saved more than 18 million lives, prevented millions of HIV infections, and moved the HIV/AIDS epidemic from crisis toward control in more than 50 countries. With nearly 18 years of strong and sustained bipartisan support, PEPFAR has delivered people-centered HIV services to millions in need, enrolling them in a continuum of care specific to their individual contexts as they evolve across their lifespan. We have significantly strengthened the capacity and resilience of partner country health and data systems, communities, and local partners to confront HIV and other disease threats, including COVID-19. And we have forged strategic partnerships across sectors to drive greater impact, innovation, and sustainability.
Despite all that we have accomplished together, PEPFAR’s mission is not complete. Every day, and at every level of the program, we strive to save and improve more lives with every dollar we invest. That is why PEPFAR remains widely considered as one of the most compassionate, cost-effective, accountable, and transparent efforts in the history of American foreign assistance.
At home, as the USG looks towards the next year of Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, and the launch of an updated HIV National Strategic Plan,the Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) continues to work with partners to create and implement programs, tools and funding to help communities address HIV in their jurisdictions. This World AIDS Day, we are excited to officially launch the “I am Ready campaign” featuring Ready, Set, PrEP program participants telling their own personal journeys with PrEP and aimed at increasing PrEP use and enrollment in the Ready, Set, PrEP program. Ready, Set, PrEP provides free PrEP to individuals without prescription drug coverage.
OIDP is also excited to begin working with a broad group of stakeholders to plan and implement a national campaign to highlight the importance of viral suppression – focusing on the 2nd pillar of the EHE campaign, “treat people with HIV rapidly and effectively to reach sustained viral suppression.” This collaborative campaign will include input from community experts to identify innovative public health messages, replicate community best practices, increase awareness of HIV treatment and support service options when facing social and structural barriers.
As the World AIDS Day theme reminds us, the HIV community has always been resilient, overcoming obstacles and challenges and constantly adapting our approaches for life-saving impact.
On this day, as we reflect on those we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS and also COVID-19, we renew our commitment to work with our wide and diverse stakeholder communities to continue making positive change across the U.S. and globally.