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End Inequalities to End HIV: World AIDS Day

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 12/01/2021 - 16:05

“End inequalities, AIDS and pandemics” is the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, which is observed every Dec. 1. This year’s theme highlights the role of inequality in spreading AIDS and other pandemics.

Established in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first day dedicated to highlight a health issue. Since then, UN agencies, governments and civil societies meet every year to underscore challenges in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Global organizations had commitment to end AIDS by 2030 but to do so “we must urgently end economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities,” said the UN.  Tackling inequalities, in addition to being central to ending AIDS, will help advance the rights of people living with HIV, while preparing societies to defeat COVID-19 and other pandemics. This will support economic recovery and stability.

Structural inequalities and determinants of health such as education, occupation, income, home and community all have direct impact on health and HIV outcomes, found a study by UNAIDS. “The lower someone’s social and economic status, the poorer their health is likely to be. As such, societal forces, like discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation, add to the stress level of certain population groups,” states the study. Additionally, unequal gender norms that limit the agency and voice of women and girls, reduce their access to education and economic resources, stifle their civic participation and contribute to the higher HIV risk faced by women in settings with high HIV prevalence.

Prevention and attention strategies for HIV, according to UNAIDS, need to come from the desire to eradicate inequalities that underpin stigma, discrimination and HIV-related criminalization, which enhance people’s vulnerability to acquire HIV and make those living with the virus more likely to die of AIDS-related illnesses.

Mexico’s Actions Against HIV

In 1983, the first case of AIDS was reported in Mexico. HIV is now a global endemic so the Ministry of Health implemented a series of strategies to prevent and treat patients with the infection. During 2020, the Ministry of Health made 1.5 million HIV detections, of which 1.17 million were made by during an HIV and STI Program and 307,663 by a Maternal Health Program. In 2021, the Ministry of Health allocated federal resources for the acquisition of 1.09 million rapid HIV detection tests. By Nov. 25, 2021, there have been just 1.6 million HIV detections: 1.23 million by the HIV and STI Program and 364,382 by the Maternal Health Program.

The Ministry of Health implemented a triple optimization strategy for antiretroviral treatment to offer better therapeutic options for the treatment of the HIV-positive population. Mexico is also part of the “Mosaico” clinical trials for the HIV vaccine, a Janssen-sponsored study taking place in North America, Latin America and the EU. Patients at the INCMNSZ, the Condesa Iztapalapa Specialized Clinic, the Benjamín Sepúlveda Amor Clinic in Mexico City, the Guadalajara Civil Hospital and UNAMIS will participate in the study. The Mosaico team hopes that their vaccine will help to protect at least 65 percent of the study participants. Results are expected to be delivered by 2023.

Unlike the COVID-19 vaccine, an HIV vaccine is still unavailable because the process is more complex. “The scale of mutations that HIV produces are beyond anything that is even in the same realm of what COVID-19 does,” said Rowena Johnston, VP and Director of Research, amfAR, to NBC News

These quick genetic variations explain why HIV is always one step ahead of the antibody response that failed vaccines trigger in the body, explained to NCB News Ronald Desrosiers, Professor, University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

Photo by:   NIAID via Flickr
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst