Today is World AIDS Day and the UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé in a statement says the UN is highlighting the importance of the right to health and the challenges that people living with and affected by HIV face in fulfilling that right.
The right to health is a fundamental human right. Everybody has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The world will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which include the target of ending AIDS by 2030, without people attaining their right to health. The right to health is interrelated with a range of other rights, including the rights to sanitation, food, decent housing, healthy working conditions and a clean environment, Ms. Sidibé says.
The right to health means many different things: That no one person has a greater right to healthcare than anyone else; that there is adequate healthcare infrastructure; that healthcare services are respectful and non-discriminatory and that healthcare must be medically appropriate and of good quality. But the right to health is more than that—by attaining the right to health, people’s dreams and promises can be fulfilled, she says.
On every World AIDS Day, we look back to remember our family members and friends who have died from AIDS-related illnesses and recommit our solidarity with all who are living with or affected by HIV.
This year has seen significant steps on the way to meeting the 90–90–90 treatment targets towards ending AIDS by 2030. Nearly 21 million people living with HIV are now on treatment and new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are declining in many parts of the world. But we should not be complacent. In eastern Europe and central Asia, new HIV infections have risen by 60% since 2010 and AIDS-related deaths by 27%. Western and central Africa are still being left behind. Two out of three people are not accessing treatment. We cannot have a two-speed approach to ending AIDS. For all the successes, AIDS is not yet over. But by ensuring that everyone, everywhere accesses the right to health, it can be.
UNAIDS says that last year 36.7 million people were living with HIV, in July this year 20.9 million people were living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy and 1.8 million people were newly affected by HIV last year.
In an article published in our Health Capsule section today, the National AIDS Control Programme Director, Dr. Sisira Liyanage says Sri Lanka is a low prevalence country for HIV and AIDS but we have an equal responsibility as other countries. Dr. Liyanage says the low prevalence should be brought to elimination. Sri Lanka’s HIV/AIDS rate is 0.1%. He said that there were plans to test about two million people to diagnose if they are suffering from the disease. The antiretroviral treatment is given free of charge by the Government.
Dr. Liyanage says that since unsafe sex is the main risk factor leading to HIV, it is important to raise sufficient awareness among vulnerable groups about the need to practise safe sex. He says the National AIDS Control Programme is promoting various health education programmes and distributing leaflets. The Unit also distributes condoms free of charge and encourages people to visit the clinic to get themselves tested for HIV. The Unit does this with the help of non governmental organizations and the community. In the event, a person is tested HIV positive the Unit gives him or her the necessary treatment to help control the disease. These are important preventive measures that need to be carried out within the community, Dr. Liyanage says and we hope the community will respond positively, rising beyond the old practice of marginalizing or isolating HIV/AIDS victims.