UNAIDS Launches #endAIDSCaribbean Social Media Campaign

KINGSTON, Jamaica – UNAIDS Caribbean has launched the social media campaign #endAIDSCaribbean, as the region observes World AIDS Day 2021 on Wednesday.

AIDSendPhoto courtesy of UNAIDSIt said that the campaign focuses on the theme “End inequalities. End AIDS” and targets online audiences in the Dutch-, English-French- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean.

UNAIDS Caribbean said that the theme is taken from the 2021 – 2026 Global AIDS Strategy and it is meant to increase awareness and buy-in for an approach focused on addressing discrimination, injustice and inequity.

Together with the effective implementation of HIV prevention, treatment and care best practices, this people-centered strategy will get every country and community on track to eliminate AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goal agenda, UNAIDS Caribbean added.

“Stigma and discrimination, the marginalization and criminalization of entire communities and a lack of access to healthcare, justice and other essential services continue to fuel the HIV epidemic in the region,” said UNAIDS Caribbean Director, Dr. James Guwani.

Among the groups particularly affected by these inequalities are people living with HIV, the key populations (gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, transgender people, people who use drugs and people in prison), at-risk children and youth, poor people, migrants, the homeless, women and other people who experience gender-based violence.

The campaign emphasizes what individuals and communities can do to be more supportive of those living with, and affected by, HIV. It also points to legal and policy directions that would help the Caribbean create a more enabling environment for the AIDS response.

The key messages are to build a more caring, respectful community, be kind to everyone, support people living with HIV, provide emotional and social support to those in need as well as strengthening community-led services and ensuring the social safety nets cover everyone.

The campaign is also sending a message to provide safe, comfortable healthcare for all, address people’s specific needs, ensure health services are confidential as well as remove laws that discriminate and create those that protect.

The campaign includes an animated video, quizzes testing knowledge about HIV and COVID-19 vaccines, infographics and GIFs.

At the end of 2020, UNAIDS estimates that 18 per cent of people living with HIV in the Caribbean were unaware of their status.

It said of those who were diagnosed, almost one in five (18 per cent) did not start treatment.

There are also challenges around retaining people in care so they achieve viral suppression. People’s experience and fear of prejudice, gossip, harassment and violence all contribute to lower treatment initiation and adherence rates UNAIDS Caribbean said.

“The Caribbean has testing, treatment and care services. What is needed is greater investments in community organizations that can help people navigate the process and a culture that treats everyone with respect, regardless of difference. Ending AIDS is not just the business of Health Ministries. We need every person to play their part,” said Dr. Guwani.”

UNAIDS Tuesday warned that if the transformative measures needed to end AIDS are not taken, the world will also stay trapped in the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and remain dangerously unprepared for the pandemics to come.

“This is an urgent call to action,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, adding that “progress against the AIDS pandemic, which was already off track, is now under even greater strain as the COVID-19 crisis continues to rage, disrupting HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling, violence-prevention programmes and more.

“We cannot be forced to choose between ending the AIDS pandemic today and preparing for the pandemics of tomorrow. The only successful approach will achieve both. As of now, we are not on track to achieve either.”

The warning comes in a new World AIDS Day report by UNAIDS entitled “Unequal, unprepared, under threat: why bold action against inequalities is needed to end AIDS, stop COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics.”

With regards to the Caribbean, health experts say the region has made steady progress against AIDS, especially in providing life-saving testing and treatment to people living with HIV. AIDS-related deaths have been cut in half (51 per cent) since 2010, while new infections declined by two per cent.

But they note that the region fell short of the 90-90-90 testing and treatment targets set for 2020. According to UNAIDS data, at the end of last year, 82 per cent of people living with HIV in the region knew their HIV status, 82 per cent of diagnosed people were receiving treatment and 89 per cent of those on treatment were virally suppressed.

“The data tell us that we need to reach people who are not aware of their HIV status. Critically for the Caribbean, 20,000 people know they are HIV positive but are not on treatment. We must invest in interventions to provide people with the care and support they need to start and stay on treatment,” said Dr. Guwani.