U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on countries across the world to provide necessary and life-saving HIV services to those groups at the highest risk of having it.
In a pre-recorded video shared on the final day of a three-day meeting at the U.N. General Assembly that specifically sought to address HIV/AIDS, Blinken said, “Ending AIDS is within our reach. But we cannot achieve that goal if we deny people’s sexual and reproductive rights, or foster discrimination against the very people who are the most vulnerable to HIV.”
Blinken cited last week's 40th-anniversary of what would be the first report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what would become known as AIDS.
He said that with more than 38 million people in the world living with HIV, countries must remember those people are colleagues, neighbors, partners, family members and are part of different age groups, races, faiths, and nationalities.
Equal access to necessary HIV services should be, Blinken said, available to groups including the LGBTQI+ community, people who use drugs, sex workers, racial and ethnic minorities, and women and girls.
Blinken said that while progress has been made there is still a significant amount of work to be done to end the epidemic. Further, he said, the inequalities within communities at-risk for HIV had been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inequalities millions face must be prevented. He said if they are not, then millions living with HIV will die.
“Laws, policies, and practices that make it harder for these populations to access crucial services only increase stigma and put more lives at risk. And they cut against the core principles of the United Nations,” Blinken explained.
Earlier this week, the General Assembly approved a declaration to end AIDS by 2030, according to a press release by UNAIDS. The bloc noted how the COVID-19 pandemic had harmed some access to necessary treatments and testing.
In 2016, the U.N. set targets for HIV transmissions and deaths by 2020, but last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, both transmissions and AIDS-related deaths reached well above those initial targets.
The declaration passed included a mission to keep HIV transmissions below 370,000 and AIDS-related deaths down to below 250,000 in the next four years.
While inequalities are mentioned, the declaration doesn’t directly reference the LGBTQ+ population, the Associated Press reported.
“The stark inequalities exposed by the colliding pandemics of HIV and COVID-19 are a wake-up call for the world to prioritize and invest fully in realizing the human right to health for all without discrimination,” Winnie Byanyima, the UNAIDS executive director, said.