Realising the HIV/Aids elimination goal in Africa by 2030 will be dependent on greater support for community-led prevention and treatment interventions, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday ahead of World Aids Day.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said that optimal involvement of local communities is key to promoting early diagnosis, treatment, and care for people infected with the Aids virus.
The 2023 World Aids Day is observed under the theme of "Let Communities Lead," reinforcing the need to tap into their agility, dedication, and innovation to attain Aids-free goals in the continent by 2030, Moeti said.
According to Moeti, the strong leadership of communities has been instrumental in reducing HIV infections and deaths in Africa through robust awareness campaigns, access to lifelong treatment, and fighting stigma.
"In the early days of the response, when the world was in denial, communities spoke up to fight the silence and stigma.
“They were at the forefront of the fight against discrimination," Moeti said. "They were advocates who campaigned for increased access to antiretroviral therapy and care, ensuring that no one would be left behind."
Moeti urged African countries to create an enabling environment that respects and protects rights, and promotes equity and comprehensive care as local communities take up the mantle to eradicate HIV/Aids in the continent.
She noted that the community's role goes beyond advocacy and activism to cover monitoring of high-impact interventions geared towards eliminating the pandemic.
Moeti suggested local communities should be empowered to hold leaders accountable and report human rights violations like stigma that have undermined the Aids battle in Africa.
"To let communities lead, we need to listen more to their voices, acknowledge their expertise, and involve them in decision-making at all levels," Moeti said, adding that vulnerable demographics including the youth and injectable drug users deserve access to quality and affordable testing, prevention, treatment and care services.
World Aids Day, which is observed annually on December 1, aims to raise awareness about the virus and mourn those who have succumbed to it while calling on key stakeholders to invest in effective prevention and treatment options.