UNAIDS representative Jantine Jacobi explained some of the major structural barriers for HIV prevention. In Eastern Europe and Russia, a major challenge is the criminalisation of marginalised groups who are more at risk of HIV, such as drug users and men who have sex with men. In Sub-Saharan Africa the epidemic is gendered, with young women at a much higher risk of HIV infection than young men. PCI Mozambique is one of the NGOs invested in preventing new HIV infections among young people. Almost 100,000 people were infected with HIV in 2020 and the fear of stigma makes many people reluctant to seek counselling. David Wood, speaking for PCI during the session, explained how popular radio novelas and radio talk shows by and for young people the NGO have managed to increase young people’s understanding of HIV and is encouraging them to talk about it.
Key populations at the centre of the response
Chair of the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda, Senator Fourat Ben Chikha, concluded the session by saying: “We’re happy to see that Minister Kitir has renewed Belgium’s support to UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. However, we’re also worried, since in the past years the federal development cooperation has no longer been investing in the uptake of HIV in its bilateral cooperation. The renewed focus on primary healthcare under the current Minister should therefore make sure to include proper attention to SRHR, including the treatment and prevention of HIV as well as other STIs. However, that being said, we also need to realise that 62% of all new infections occur among men who have sex with men and other key populations, while only 2% of all international HIV funding is dedicated to these groups. There is no way to end AIDS, without putting their health and rights at the centre of our response."
Ben Chikha continued: "We therefore need to continue to call upon the Minister to support specific programmes that target these groups who – out of well-founded fear for discrimination and a lack of confidentiality – often cannot turn to primary healthcare service providers, such as LGBTIQ+ persons, drug users and sex workers. As long as access to quality healthcare and health promotion cannot be guaranteed for all, we need to continue to maintain a two-track approach, with on the one hand investment in the training of health staff to overcome their prejudices, and ensure good quality and affordable care, and on the other hand continue to do targeted outreach work in prevention, testing and treatment, to reach those marginalised within their societies. Last but not least, we need to call on countries to stop criminalising these groups and their sexuality, and support human rights activists in their fight for equal rights and respect.”