Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of World AIDS Day
1 December 2019
On the occasion of World AIDS Day, UNESCO, in close cooperation with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and all their partners, is anxious to underscore the extent to which AIDS remains a pressing concern.
Substantial progress has been made over the past few years. For example, the most recent UNAIDS data, for the year 2018, show new infections to have declined by around 16 per cent since 2010 and AIDS-related deaths to have been reduced by more than 56 per cent since 2004, which was the worst year ever in that respect.
Such results are the fruit of extensive efforts to mobilize the international community and millions of citizens around the world.
They also stem from the mobilization of a good many support networks and communities, including youth associations, teachers’ unions, parent groups, teachers, family circles and groups of friends, religious leaders and local communities. All those communities and all the people living with or affected by HIV have played a crucial role at their respective levels.
Their combined efforts helped more than 23 million people around the world to gain access to HIV treatment in 2018.
It is that role, of which the general public is all too unaware, that World AIDS Day is highlighting this year in a fitting tribute to those women and men who give freely of their time in fighting against HIV through actions either to educate or, where necessary, to provide therapeutic care, and in ensuring that every person living with HIV continues to enjoy the right to go to school or to work.
An effective AIDS response calls for close collaboration with those frontline actors. It is for that reason that UNESCO is working so hard to support and monitor the activities of those communities on the ground, especially in the key field of education. The fact is that the fight against AIDS is not just a medical and scientific battle; it is also, crucially, a matter of education.
Hence the great relevance of UNESCO’s flagship initiative, the “Our Rights, Our Lives, Our Future” (O3) programme. Our Organization is currently taking practical steps to promote access to comprehensive sexuality education for nearly 20 million young people in 31 sub-Saharan African countries. The programme is also striving to reach no fewer than 30 million people through either community engagement activities or social media.
It is with that same aim in mind that UNESCO supports national education policies around the world, including by making available to Member States its International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education, which underscores the many existing links between comprehensive sexuality education, the promotion of gender equality and health and well-being education.
It is on a day-to-day basis, hand-in-hand with those most concerned and their carers, that one needs to act. This is crucial to the Positive Learning programme that UNESCO is about to deliver to young people living with HIV, so that the programme comes as close as possible to meeting their needs and expectations.
Giving people living with HIV the means to act, inter alia, is what will enable them to lead as healthy and fulfilled a life as possible.