A lot has been learnt from the HIV response which can help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. By observation and people’s experiences we have come to understand and accept that both viruses thrive on fear, ignorance and inequalities.
It important that the responses focus on people and engage communities, are based on evidence and human rights, and reach and protect the most vulnerable and marginalized, without any stigma or discrimination. There are widespread misconceptions and needless fear of people who have recovered from Covid-19, as they are believed to pose a health risk to others.
Covid-19 survivors are stigmatized and avoided. As a result, many Ghanaians with symptoms are often unwilling to test for fear of being stigmatized if the result is positive.
Responses centered on people and engaging communities based on facts will go a long way protect the vulnerable and the marginalized against stigma and discrimination.
Community actors in the HIV response, like the Models of Hope, are effectively deployed to support the national effort.
Models of Hope volunteers work to stop new HIV infections, ensure that everyone living with HIV has access to treatment, protect and promote human rights and produce data for decision-making.
Community actors can carry out outreach for testing and help link people who test positive to life-saving treatment and to encourage persons on treatment to stay on treatment so that the virus in their bodies reaches an un-detectable state and therefore un-transmittable.
These community actors must be protected at all times not only because of the quality of the delivery in their work but more importantly sure that their lives are protected.
Country Director of UNAIDS, Angela Trenton-Mbonde stated at the Launch of the One Million PPE for frontline health workers campaign, an Initiative of the Millennium Promise Alliance that, “Protection of our Frontline Health Workers is critical. The vulnerable segments of our population, whether persons living with HIV, survivors of tuberculosis, persons with non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension – these are all cared for by the Frontline Health Workers. By protecting Frontline Health Workers, we are protecting the whole community.”
In the early days of the HIV epidemic, millions of lives were lost needlessly because HIV treatment was not available in developing countries.
We now must make sure that when a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, it is available to everyone everywhere free of charge. We applaud the courage and commitment to service of the Health Workers of Ghana who are at the frontline. They are #RealLifeHeroes.
Studies show that approximately 10% of all COVID-19 cases globally are among health workers. In Ghana, over 2000 Frontline Health Workers have been infected with COVID-19, and we are saddened that we have lost some of them to the disease.
UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.