‘Equalise’ or lose the Aids battle, UNAIDS warns

Aids will not be eradicated by 2030. The main stumbling blocks are gender inequality, marginalised individuals such as female sex workers, children living with HIV, and inequitable access to resources. This is according to UNAids’ executive director, Winnie Byanyima, speaking at the launch of UNAids’ report Dangerous Inequalities.
The world commemorates World Aids Day on 1 December. The world’s largest HIV epidemic persists in South Africa, with about 8.5 million people in the country living with HIV, according to Statistics SA in its 2022 mid-year population estimate report.
A new report by UNAids, which was officially launched in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, on 29 November, reveals that crucial steps, which can set the world’s Aids response back on track, must be taken to tackle inequalities, and calls on countries worldwide to take action.
“In one word: equalise. Equalise access to rights, equalise access to services, and the best science and medicine — it will help everyone,” said UNAids’ executive director, Winnie Byanyima, at the launch of the report.
Equalising for women and girls
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys and men of the same age — and the driving factor is inequality,” said Byanyima.
The report noted that an estimated quarter of a million adolescent girls and young women (aged 15 to 24) acquired HIV in 2021, with 82% of them living in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This equates to roughly 4,900 new HIV infections per week among adolescent girls and young women. South Africa is no exception, with the infection rate among adolescent girls and young women rising at an alarming rate.
Statistics from the Thembisa model, a mathematical model of South Africa’s HIV epidemic, indicated that adolescent girls and young women are disproportionately affected. In 2022, the HIV prevalence for adolescent girls and young women was 8.4%, and 3.6% for their male counterparts of the same age. Read more about how South Africa measures up to UNAids’ HIV targets here.
Furthermore, the report indicated that in Sub-Saharan Africa, new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women are declining at a sluggish rate in contrast to males in the same age demographic. Between 2010 and 2021, new infections among adolescent girls and young women declined by 42%, but during that same period, for males of the same age, the decline in new infections was 56%.
Byanyima noted the importance of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in reducing ...