World AIDS Day Raises Awareness of Disparities, Barriers to HIV Care

The 2022 theme is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.”

The 34th annual World AIDS Day is December 1, 2022, to raise awareness about disparities in care and access to testing, prevention, and treatment for patients with HIV infection. The day also includes many fundraising and awareness-raising efforts, as well as an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS.

The theme of the 2022 World AIDS Day is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV,” with an emphasis on accountability and action, particularly in communities that are disproportionately affected by HIV. Importantly, World AIDS Day 2022 is also occurring amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing monkeypox outbreak, both of which have impacted many of the same communities as the HIV pandemic.

Globally, there are an estimated 1.5 million new cases of HIV each year, including more than 35,000 new infections in the United States. Certain populations and geographic areas continue to bare most of the burden due to stigma, discrimination, and other structural factors.

Research over the past 34 years has made significant discoveries and innovations in HIV diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Treatments have significantly improved, allowing individuals with HIV to live full lives and preventing new transmissions. Patients living with HIV and community-based organizations have been essential to these efforts.

The 2022 theme also emphasizes the need for HIV testing.

“Everyone should get tested for HIV and know their status,” said Kaye Hayes, MPA, Health and Human Services Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infectious Disease and the director of the Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, in a press release. “We are advancing a status-neutral approach to HIV testing that puts equity at the forefront. Under this approach, no matter what the outcome of the test, people should be connected with the necessary HIV prevention and treatment services, including strategies to address social determinants of health and barriers to access.”

Many initiatives are working to improve disparities and lower HIV/AIDS rates. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has worked for the past 19 years with more than 50 countries to address HIV/AIDS, with programs designed to help countries build prevention, detection, and responses to HIV and other health threats such as COVID-19.

“The greatest public health asset and the greatest public health response is PEPFAR,” said John Nkengasong, PhD, US Global AIDS Coordinator and leader of PEPFAR, in the press release. “Through collaboration and partnership, we have made considerable progress toward ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but the last mile of the response is the greatest challenge. We are working with our multisectoral partners to focus on areas where gaps still exist among key and vulnerable populations to end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”

In the United States, the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the US (EHE) initiative aims to dramatically reduce the number of new HIV cases. President Joseph Biden released an updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy on World AIDS Day 2021, with a complementary framework for stakeholders addressing HIV among populations and communities most affected.

“This World AIDS Day, we acknowledge the role equity plays in either the success or failure of our nation’s HIV response. Providing equitable access to HIV testing, prevention, care, treatment, and research is key to ending the HIV epidemic,” said Harold Phillips, MRP, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, in the press release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our resolve and our ability to focus on ending the HIV epidemic. This World AIDS Day, we must recommit and re-energize all sectors of society to center equity within our HIV response by ensuring that everyone with HIV and those at-risk for infection have access to appropriate HIV testing, treatment, and prevention services.”

REFERENCE

World AIDS Day 2022: Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV. News release. HIV.gov; October 24, 2022. https://www.hiv.gov/blog/world-aids-day-2022-putting-ourselves-to-the-test-achieving-equity-to-end-hiv

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