IAS statement at the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly: Follow the science

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Thursday, 27 May 2021: IAS – the International AIDS Society - supports the proposed Global Health Sector Strategies for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections for 2022–2030 (agenda item 26.4) and commends the strategic grouping of work on HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs within WHO. We stress the importance of ensuring a consultative process that considers the views of all relevant stakeholders.

The past 40 years of the HIV response demonstrate the importance of science. Remarkable scientific progress has provided the tools required to tackle the epidemic. Landmark studies have shown that treatment saves lives and prevents transmission. Multiple prevention tools are also now available to us to prevent infection. Yet, as has been observed from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, following the science is also an inherently political decision. Conscious commitment to translating latest evidence into strategic public health action, including for HIV, viral hepatitis, STIs and COVID-19, must be sustained and scaled up.   

The proposed WHO Global Health Sector Strategies will be strengthened by seeking to disaggregate data to understand the individualized needs of people, not only population groups. We draw attention to WHO’s current definition of “people-centred care”:

“Care that is focused and organized around the health needs and expectations of people and communities rather than on diseases.”

The IAS encourages expansion of this definition in the context of the WHO Global Health Sector Strategies to pay due attention to diversity within groups of people and communities. A focus on person-centred rather than people-centred care could recognize dynamics of intersectionality for people in all their diversity within population groups and create a framework to inform and improve models of care. A framework on person-centred care could inform development of approaches to service delivery better equipped to provide quality and comprehensive services that respond to layers of individual identity and evolving health needs.

During these final negotiations ahead of the UN High-level Meeting on HIV and AIDS, the IAS recommends that all actors work to ensure that the political declaration is informed by science and is strong and progressive. Our collective efforts on HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs will be enhanced if there is consensus to realize human rights for all, commit to ending the discrimination of marginalized, criminalized and disadvantaged groups, and scale up efforts to reduce the multi-layered and harmful effects of stigma. Such strategic direction and a strong political declaration will enable success for not only the work of the WHO Global Health Sector but all efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and universal health coverage (UHC) for all.

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