01 December 2023 | Statements

World AIDS Day: Let Communities Lead!

Geneva – Each year, World AIDS Day offers the global health community a chance to reflect how far the world has come in the fight against HIV. A disease that once was a death sentence is now a manageable chronic health condition if people living with HIV can access the life-saving tools required to keep the virus under control.

These tools are increasingly available and affordable in low and middle-income countries, thanks in part to Unitaid’s work with our implementing partners to drive down prices, increase supply security and accelerate the introduction of the most suitable and effective new tools. However, remaining gaps in access and uptake create an uneven response; nearly 39 million people in the world are living with HIV, yet 14% do not know their status, and 24% still do not receive treatment.

This year, the theme for World AIDS Day is letting communities lead. Empowering communities to drive the response through community engagement is critical to breaking down the remaining access barriers to HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

How does Unitaid engage with communities?

Community engagement places people living with and affected by disease at the center of health responses. Our work has been delivered in partnership with communities since our creation in 2006, who help guide our interventions,  promote well-being, and work to address the social determinants of health. Our community engagement framework involves building trust-based relationships to develop more effective health interventions, programs, services, and policies. Through community engagement, individuals and communities are empowered to take an active role in their own health and participate in the decisions and structures that build healthier societies.

The Communities Delegation on our executive board represents people living with and affected by HIV, common coinfections, and other diseases central to our work, like tuberculosis and Malaria. The delegation represents the views, voices, needs and interests of communities at the highest level within the organization. 

Demonstrating impact: an example from communities in Nigeria and Uganda 

Communities lead a key role in our work, voicing their needs and preferences through  community advisory boards, community-led monitoring, service delivery and consultations, as well as providing valuable insight into product preferences.

Community advisory boards consist of representatives of affected communities who meet locally to share information with civil society, site investigators and medical research staff to provide a community perspective into research plans and studies. They have a role to play at each research stage—from setting the research agenda and determining priority questions to reviewing protocol, overseeing trial contact, and disseminating results across the community. The advisory board members provide a robust understanding of their community, ultimately leading to more effective programs.

We partnered with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and AfroCAB under a grant to increase access to world-class antiretrovirals and other relevant health products for people living with HIV in low and middle-income countries. Under this grant, we utilized community advisory boards to strengthen the rollout of new products and enhance treatment literacy, including:

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, our partners, under the same grant, launched a community consultation webinar series to inform community members about how to continue accessing HIV care and treatment during the pandemic through a forum for people living with HIV to share their experiences and help each other identify solutions to access challenges.

As we reflect on the progress made thus far in the global fight against HIV and AIDS, it’s essential to take stock of the gaps that remain in ensuring people living with HIV have access to the treatment they need to live a long and healthy life. The path toward closing these gaps lies in collaboration, understanding, and a genuine commitment to amplifying the voices of those most affected. Through a united and community-led global effort, we can create a future where the AIDS epidemic is not only controlled but eradicated.


Media contacts:

For more information and media requests:

Hervé Verhoosel

Head of Communications and Spokesperson

M: +33 6 22 59 73 54

verhooselh@unitaid.who.int

Kyle Wilkinson,

Communications Officer

+41 79 445 17 45

wilkinsonk@unitaid.who.int

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