This year, as we commemorate World AIDS Day, I would like to recognize the important role of communities in leading the HIV response.
The transformative impact of communities, encompassing networks, organisations, and groups led by people who use drugs and people in prisons, cannot be overstated. They have been instrumental in driving the HIV response forward, by mobilising funds, rallying political support, and garnering commitment at the highest level. Their leadership ensures that the most marginalized in society receive the care they need, building trust, innovation, and accountability in the implementation of services and policies.
The global response must prioritize the health, well-being and security of all individuals, including those who use drugs and people in prisons, while respecting and promoting their human rights at all times. The evidence is clear: needle and syringe programmes reduce the spread of HIV and viral hepatitis; Opioid agonist therapy effectively treats opioid dependence and reduces vulnerability to infectious diseases; and Naloxone is an effective treatment for opioid overdoses that saves lives. It is vital that these evidence-based interventions are also made available for people in prison settings.
Meanwhile, recent health and humanitarian crises have proven once again the power of community-led interventions in the HIV response. When crisis hits, communities have been the first to step up to help, showing empathy and resilience. They have ensured that people continue to have access to needle and syringe programmes, opioid agonist therapy, and HIV prevention and treatment services, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the potential for communities to contribute fully towards ending AIDS by 2030 is being undermined by acute funding shortages, as well as legal and policy barriers.
As the Chair of the Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS for 2023, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime actively promotes meaningful engagement with community-led organizations in the global AIDS response, including through regular consultations and the development of joint workplans, focusing on key populations such as people who use drugs and people in prison settings.
Our technical support and advocacy efforts have contributed to the implementation of opioid agonist therapy in Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, as well as prison settings in Kenya, while enhancing the capacity of service providers and community-led organizations in these countries. We are also committed to supporting Member States in achieving the 30-80-60 targets on community service delivery and the HIV services targets outlined in the Global AIDS Strategy.
As we mark World AIDS Day 2023, let us work to ensure that community-led responses are adequately resourced, supported, and integrated into national responses, and that people who use drugs and people in prisons, including women and young people, are meaningfully involved at all stages of decision making, as well as in designing, implementing, and monitoring programmes and policies.