03 December 2019, Dili
World AIDS Day 2019 — Communities make the difference
UN Resident Coordinator's speech at the celebration of World AIDS Day 2019
Started in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day. Observed each year on December 1, is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV.
Each year the world agrees to a theme to commemorate and advocate for HIV/AIDS. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day 2019 by the World Health Organization is “communities make the difference”.
According to WHO, today 4 in 5 people with HIV get tested and 2 in 3 get treatment: communities played a major role in achieving this success.
Of the estimated 37.9 million people living with HIV in the world at the end of 2018, 79% were diagnosed, 62% received treatment, and 53% had achieved suppression of the HIV virus with low risk of infecting others.
As per the latest estimates, the number of people living with HIV in the country is less than 500, 465 to be precise. Statistically speaking, this is low prevalence but we cannot be complacent. We need to not only prevent the further spread but must reverse these figures to zero. With almost 70 % of the population of Timor-Leste under the age of 35, it is very important that we continue to inform people about how to prevent the spread of HIV AIDS.
It is also important that we work with communities to counter the stigma of HIV AIDS. The work done by organizations like Estrela Plus, Esperanca, CWS, and others must be complemented and supported in every way possible.
One of the key contributors to this success in all countries has been the engagement of thousands of members of HIV and “key population” community networks and community health workers, many of whom are living with or affected by HIV.
Ending the HIV epidemic requires us to recognize and address the social challenges that block marginalized groups from equally accessing services. We can work to end the HIV epidemic, community by community. We must unite with others around to learn how to prevent HIV, support people with HIV, and remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS.
Community and civil society engagement must remain a key strategy to boost primary health care. Activism and civil society action have been key resources in the HIV response from the early days, inspiring the global health community to galvanize efforts for increased equity, respect for health and human rights, and scientific innovation.
World AIDS Day 2019 provides an opportunity to translate our commitments into action, to ensure the role of communities for HIV and health progress are both celebrated and accelerated.