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Del Re, Sands: “The double challenge of HIV and human rights“ (Corriere della Sera)

Dear Editor, The international community has collected 14 billion US dollars to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This record amount represents a huge success for the Global Fund Sixth Replenishment Conference held in October in Lyon: the highest international collection of funds for global health. The international community has proven itself up to the challenge of meeting complex contemporary challenges, working together to build a fairer, more sustainable world. Italy is a leader in this virtuous process which reflects the importance of multilateralism and international cooperation for development.

World AIDS day reflects the importance of fighting HIV: a global movement that has gained new energy thanks to the replenishment of funds and sense of urgency required to keep up with the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

This is a crucial stage in the fight against the HIV. We have already saved millions of lives with the massive increase in strength of anti-retroviral therapy, but the total number of new HIV infections is still very high: 1.7 million people were infected in 2018. Despite the epochal progress made in the last 20 years, much work still has to be done to achieve the global goal of Unaids: less than 500,000 persons infected per year by 2020 and less than 500,000 deaths.

In order to reduce the rate of new infections more quickly, we have to overcome persistent hate-based barriers such as those linked to gender-related discrimination and human rights breaches that are drivers of the HIV epidemic. We can only beat HIV by dealing with the clear structural gender inequalities that make girls and young women strongly vulnerable to infection. The risk of girls and young women of between 15 and 24 in Sub-Saharan Africa being HIV-positive is double that of their male counterparts. The probability is six times higher in countries with the highest rate of HIV infection. We have to act on gender-based violence which is far too common, in addition to the educational disadvantages and the lack of economic power of such a high number of girls and young women. Respect for human rights is essential in order to beat HIV: the barriers to human rights that afflict vulnerable and particularly fragile groups have to be broken down since these barriers increase vulnerability to infection and hinder access to healthcare services. People who belong to vulnerable groups and their partners now account for over half of all new infections. We have to involve HIV-positive people in the planning and supply of products and programmes to deal with gender inequality and to ensure that human rights are respected, exploiting the innovation impact to a greater extent. Investments will have to be made in communities for them to get organised and make their voices heard and take part in the policy and programme decision-making processes. Special attention has to be paid to Africa, a young continent that offers innovation and creativity: we have to create stable, long-lasting development goals in partnership with the African countries.

Italy has been a proud supporter of the Global Fund since the start, and is taking the lead in these battles. Italy reiterates its strong commitment to fighting the HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria epidemics, and responded to the Global Fund’s request to step up to the fight by making a contribution of 161 million euros over the next three years; this is a 15% increase over the previous contribution and makes it one of the ten biggest donors to the Fund at global level. Health is a basic requirement for sustainable development, starting from women, children, young people and the more vulnerable groups. Italian development aid is prepared to continue to play a central role in this global fight, both at bilateral and multilateral levels.

It is a decisive moment in the fight against HIV: we have to act immediately and together. In an increasingly fragmented, multipolar, constantly changing world, the Global Fund is truly an example of effective multilateralism.  We need solid partnerships like this to achieve sustainable development goals, even in other sectors.

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