Pandemics will prosper unless people with HIV are put first

Treating HIV as a priority will not only save lives from coronavirus but also reduce the risk of new variants spreading worldwide, writes Kieran Guilbert on World Aids Day

Wednesday 01 December 2021 09:07
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<p>A man uses an HIV self-testing kit, administered by students from the University of the Witwatersrand in Hillbrow, Johannesburg</p>

A man uses an HIV self-testing kit, administered by students from the University of the Witwatersrand in Hillbrow, Johannesburg

While all eyes are on the omicron Covid-19 variant that has triggered global alarm, Wednesday marks the annual commemoration of another deadly disease that has claimed millions of lives.

Established in 1988, World Aids Day asks us to remember those who have died from HIV-related causes, to provide support for those living with the virus, and analyse progress towards a target of ending Aids by 2030.

But this year is different. The fight against HIV has taken on new significance since the coronavirus pandemic upended life as we know it, nowhere more so than in sub-Saharan Africa. It is home to more than two-thirds of the almost 38 million people estimated to be living with HIV, but less than 5 per cent of its 1.14 billion population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

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