On 1 December each year, World AIDS Day reminds us that the HIV epidemic is not yet over and that HIV and AIDS continue to affect millions of people globally including 1.9 million people living with HIV in the Western Pacific Region. Though HIV infection cannot be cured, it can be prevented and treated. Some progress has been made towards the targets of fewer than 24 000 new HIV infections, fewer than 15 000 AIDS-related deaths and zero new infections among children in the Western Pacific by 2020 but at the current pace, targets will not be achieved.
In the Western Pacific Region, the proportion of new HIV infections is increasing among young people and in particular among young people from key populations. People may be unaware of their risk, lack the knowledge of how to protect themselves and where to seek testing and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. They may experience stigma and discrimination which stops them from accessing the services they need to stay healthy and uninfected.
This year, the global theme of World AIDS Day is “Communities make the difference” emphasizing that we are all members of our communities and that we can gain important support from those communities. Much of the progress that has been made in tackling the HIV epidemic is thanks to the tireless work of communities. Communities have advocated for better access to prevention interventions, including accurate information about health and well-being, condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis. They also provide community-based HIV testing and HIV self-testing. Communities support people living with HIV to access life-saving treatment and stay on their treatment even when other aspects of their lives make this challenging.