SEATTLE, Washington — In 2016, the United Nations released a bold political declaration to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Since its declaration to stop the AIDS epidemic in the next 10 years, the U.N. has been analyzing cities with a larger scale of vulnerability to the infection and spread of the disease because of urban dynamic and economic inequalities making these communities a priority in combatting AIDS. These 3 fast-track cities of the United Nations are leading the way in the fight against the Aids epidemic.
Challenges in Fighting HIV/AIDS
As of 2017, 36.9 million people have HIV/AIDS globally. A large number of individuals living with AIDS are from impoverished countries and communities. An estimated 180,000 children under the age of 15 were infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, most of whom contracted the virus from their infected mothers. At least 25 percent of the population who are infected do not know that they carry the virus. Lack of access to testing facilities is part of the problem that the U.N. initiative hopes to remedy.
Once a person is aware of the disease, they need to start treatment in the form of antiretroviral therapy (ART). An important focus of the U.N. initiative includes doubling the number of people on treatment. In 2015, the original goal was 15 million, and the goal that was achieved was 17 million on treatment. By 2017, 21.7 million were receiving treatment. This progress will accelerate prevention outreach (especially for women and girls) and reduce the number of new HIV infections among children. In fact, the fast-track countries of the United Nations have an ambitious goal of eliminating childhood AIDS by reducing new HIV infections by 95 percent in every region by 2020.
Supporting the U.N. Initiative
To adhere to their declaration, the U.N. has provided resources like health education services and medication to vulnerable cities. With the help of global partnerships, foreign aid efforts and willingness from leaders of impoverished communities, fast-track cities of the United Nations are showing a decline in confirmed AIDS cases and an improvement in health overall.
These cities are setting an example for other highly infected cities around the globe for how they can combat the issue on a local scale and conveying the importance of foreign aid in hopes of ending the AIDS epidemic. Here are 3 of the more than 200 fast-track cities of the United Nations who are delivering on their pledge to collaborate with world leaders and communities around the globe to achieve the 2030 health goal of eliminating AIDS.
Zimbabwe is among the countries that have been heavily impacted by the AIDS epidemic. When the city of Harare reached its peak of confirmed HIV cases, the number of those infected was nearly double the national toll. However, the number had declined by 6.7 percent from 2005 to 2013.
The city has continued to see progress in combatting the aids epidemic and has worked alongside fast-track cities of the United Nations to implement a strong testing and treatment system that is now available to all in every city clinic and hospital. The city did not have any sites offering services such as these in 2004, but today there are 43 locations, and coverage of services to prevent mother-to-child infection is almost to 100 percent.
As desired, efforts of fast-track cities of the United Nations have stemmed from those with a concerningly high risk of infection. Blantyre has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, at 17.8 percent, with an estimated 115,000 people living with the infection. Children comprise 11,000 of those with HIV in Blantyre. Currently, 85 percent of the population with HIV/AIDS is receiving treatment.
Blantyre’s mayor Noel Chalamanda has championed the U.N.’s mission to end the AIDS by 2030, personally advocating for and implementing services to end the mother-to-child transmission of the infection. In compliance with the U.N.’s declaration plan and after pledging as a fast-track city, Blantyre’s six hospitals and 18 clinics now counsel and test all pregnant women for HIV and provide antiretroviral therapy to all patients with HIV. Chalamanda has called upon other world leaders to follow the lead of fast-track cities of the United Nations to “achieve the world target of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero HIV and AIDS-related deaths.”
Johannesburg — South Africa
Despite Johannesburg’s successful industrialized status, the city still faces a threatening number of HIV outbreaks (an 11 percent prevalence in 2014), largely due to economic inequality. With its commercial success, Herman Mashaba knew that, if the city of Johannesburg were to join the fast-track cities of the United Nations, it could exemplify strategic methods and practices to combat the AIDS epidemic.
Johannesburg began their efforts in accordance with the U.N.’s fast-track focus and has enforced youth sexual education programs. These programs not only help young people of Johannesburg learn about safe sex, which could help decrease their chances of becoming infected with HIV, but they also teach against stigmas — a pressing social issue that leaves many without counseling or treatment.
HIV awareness campaigns have been a key initiative in Johannesburg’s fight against AIDS. Currently, 33 primary schools and 36 high schools have implemented outreach programs that teach about HIV and methods to prevent it from spreading. The success of these programs has led to citywide workplace awareness campaigns, promoting HIV care be given in healthcare plans.
If world leaders can continue to follow the initiatives being carried out by these fast-track cities of the United Nations, the goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 may become a reality. Today’s news reports on the spread of HIV along with AIDS-related deaths can make the issue feel too large to combat. But, with collaboration and mobilization of world leaders, change is on the rise, even for those living in poverty as is evident through the fast-track cities.