Forty years into the HIV epidemic, despite there being a range of HIV prevention interventions, none of the recommended HIV prevention packages have come close to being delivered to half of the people who need them.
But there have been successes in reducing new HIV infections among the most vulnerable populations where rights-based multisectoral action has been taken, where data-driven solutions have been promoted and resourced and where the voices and contributions of the most affected communities have been leveraged.
On the sidelines of the United Nations High-Level Meeting on AIDS, a side event, No Prevention, No End: The Importance of Leadership for HIV Prevention, saw the participants-political, technical and community leaders and donors-address the gaps in HIV prevention, discuss the most effective ways to invest in and develop HIV prevention programmes and share experiences of successful country-level action.
Nguyễn Thanh Long, the Minister of Health of Viet Nam, shared an example. A threefold decrease in HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs in Viet Nam was principally a result, he said, of considering drug addiction as a medical condition requiring treatment and not as a crime. Introducing this perception into legal policy documents, including the Government Decree and the Law on HIV/AIDS Control, enabled the initiation and scale-up of comprehensive harm reduction programmes for people who inject drugs.
Adolescent girls and young women account for one in four new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa, yet dedicated HIV prevention programmes are present in only a third of high HIV burden districts. According to Pascalle Grotenhuis, the Dutch Ambassador for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, who also drew on her experience as the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Mozambique, the time is ripe for pragmatism and common sense in strengthening sexual and reproductive health services for young people, with sexual health at the core, offering dual protection against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unwanted pregnancy. Above all, sexuality education for young people must be recognized as a life-saving intervention, she said.