World health experts have vowed to act with courage to end AIDS at the just-concluded 24th International AIDS Conference. The five-day conference, known as AIDS 2022, brought together scientists, clinicians, community leaders, advocates, people with lived experience of HIV, health providers, decision-makers and others from around the world to enhance the HIV and AIDS response.
“The issues lifted up at AIDS 2022 could enable a turning point in the global AIDS response. The new UNAIDS report released at the conference, In Danger, shows how the AIDS response has been blown off course, making action urgent,” Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said.
The report showed that about 1.5 million new HIV infections occurred in 2021, over 1 million more than the global targets. Globally, only 52 percent of children living with HIV are on life-saving treatment, far behind adults, among whom 76 percent are receiving antiretrovirals.
“We call upon governments to urgently increase funding for the Global Fund and for the UN Joint Programme to enable the findings of this conference to turn into reality on the ground,” said Byanyima. “Courageous political leadership is essential to end AIDS and save millions of lives.”
According to her, important steps forward were taken at this conference. One was the new Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 created to ensure that no child living with HIV is denied treatment by the end of the decade and to prevent new infant HIV infections.
The other was a breakthrough for new long-acting ARV agents to stop HIV. The World Health Organization released new guidelines and drugmaker ViiV Healthcare has announced licenses for generic manufacturing of the drug in 90 countries.
“This could be a game changer if ViiV can provide an affordable price for low- and middle-income countries now, in the tens of dollars not hundreds of dollars, since it will be several years before generic production comes online and if generics are made available beyond these original 90 countries,” she said.
Canada served as the host country for AIDS 2022, the largest global gathering on any health issue in the world. Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos delivered closing remarks for the conference, during which he reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to reaching global HIV targets and encouraged international partners to take collaborative action toward reducing stigma around HIV as a way to reach the undiagnosed and remove barriers to testing, treatment, and care.
During the conference, Duclos announced nearly 18 million Canadian dollars (14.4 million U.S. dollars) in funding to make decentralized forms of HIV testing, including HIV self-test kits, more widely available across Canada.
However, the Canadian government was criticized by the International AIDS Society (IAS), the conference organizer, for the high number of delayed and denied visas which prevented many people from some of the countries most affected by HIV from entering Canada and attending AIDS 2022, including IAS staff and leadership.
“Underlying the difficulty experienced by many attendees of AIDS 2022 to enter Canada lies a broader problem of global inequities and systemic racism that significantly impacts global health. HIV, in particular, has always disproportionally affected the most marginalized,” IAS said.
More than 9,500 in-person and nearly 2,000 virtual participants were registered to attend the fully hybrid AIDS 2022 which started on July 29 in the Canadian city of Montreal with the theme of “re-engage and follow the science.”