World AIDS Day Reflections from the Co-Directors of the JSI and World Education Center for HIV & Infectious Diseases

December 2nd, 2021 | Viewpoint

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Yesterday, the JSI and World Education Center for HIV & Infectious Diseases convened colleagues and partners around the globe to recognize World AIDS Day. We started with a live session featuring staff implementing projects in the United States, Zambia, and Botswana, who highlighted our contributions to global efforts to end the HIV epidemic.

As the co-directors of the Center for HIV & Infectious Diseases, we are committed to working across JSI and World Education to heed World AIDS Day calls to action from the White House and UNAIDS, which firmly state that we will not end the epidemic if we do not end health inequities and inequalities and ensure that people with HIV and who experience risk for HIV are at the center of our work. Further, we must simultaneously address the colliding pandemics of HIV and COVID-19; the inequalities in which they thrive; and the preparation and systems building required to respond to future pandemics.

Domestically, our work will be guided by the updated National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States: 2022–2025, released yesterday. The updated strategy emphasizes integrated responses to HIV, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections, and substance use and mental health disorders. JSI will build on the success of its efforts in nine states to strengthen systems of care for people with HIV and opioid use disorder, and increase collaboration with our substance use and behavioral health colleagues to scale up this work across the country. The updated strategy underscores the vital role of the Affordable Care Act. JSI is currently promoting Marketplace and Medicare Open Enrollment opportunities through its Access, Care, and Engagement Technical Assistance (ACE TA) Center, a long-standing project to build the capacity of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program community to navigate the changing health care landscape and help people with HIV access and use their health coverage throughout their lifespan.

Globally, JSI continues to follow UNAIDS’ Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026. In this spirit, our programs apply an inequality lens to identify and close gaps that thwart epidemic control. As we reflect on actions needed to use this strategy to end the HIV epidemic, competent, inspiring leadership remains paramount. JSI welcomes the nomination of Dr. John Nkengasong as the new global AIDS coordinator and supports his speedy confirmation.

On this World AIDS Day, we also recognize the power of the PEPFAR platform to respond to COVID-19. As a centralized, flexible program, PEPFAR moved quickly during the pandemic and brought its health systems strengthening efforts, including laboratory infrastructure, health workforce, and surveillance systems development to bear. In the past few months alone, JSI PEPFAR-supported programs receiving American Rescue Plan Act funds have transported over 38,000 COVID-19 specimens; provided a first dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine to nearly 110,000 people; and reached over 15 million people through mass and social media with COVID-19 risk communication messaging, all while providing HIV antiretroviral therapy to nearly 490,000 clients and achieving 94% viral suppression. Investments in HIV are investments in public health, as COVID-19 has surely demonstrated.

Through our technical assistance, the JSI and World Education Center for HIV & Infectious Diseases continually seeks to provide person-centered care; increase engagement of people with lived experience; support equitable, status-neutral service delivery; and improve the quality of life for people with HIV across their lifespan. We value our strong working relationships with partners, funders, communities, and advocates around the world, and thank you for your ongoing support, collaboration, and shared commitment to ending the HIV epidemic.

Written by Antonia Powell and Gretchen Weiss

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