World AIDS Day 2023 Remarks by
IAPAC President/CEO Dr. José M. Zuniga
December 1, 2023 – Washington, DC
“On World AIDS Day 2023, we gather under the theme, ‘Let Communities Lead,’ acknowledging the intrinsic role communities have played since the early days of the HIV epidemic. Communities, often marginalized and stigmatized, have been the organic force propelling progress against an insidious virus that has claimed more than 40 million lives – 630,000 last year alone.
Community resilience and determination have historically shaped our response. For more than four long decades, communities have shouldered the burden of the HIV epidemic, all while living in a world in which HIV does not exist in isolation. HIV intertwines with age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, social circumstance, and other threads in the human tapestry. Today, as we commemorate World AIDS Day, we must thus reinforce intersectionality in our approach to addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by HIV. Leveraging intersectionality is crucial in guiding the HIV response as it acknowledges the unique challenges faced by individuals, recognizing that HIV is woven into the complex fabric of diverse identities.
Lived experience stands and must be sustained as a cornerstone in our collective fight against AIDS, enriching decision-making on issues often perceived as the domain of science or politics by grounding them in the human realm. Lived experiences must guide our efforts, adding depth and empathy to health policy formulation and the delivery of person-centered HIV care. By embracing these lived experiences, we can bridge the gap between symbolic rhetoric and tangible actions. Moreover, we can tailor interventions to address the specific needs of communities, fostering a more effective and inclusive approach in our efforts to end the HIV epidemic.
On this day of annual commemoration, we can also celebrate the strides that have been made. Yet we must acknowledge that our journey is far from over. As we navigate the complexities of the global health landscape, we must recognize the urgency of fortifying affected communities to continue leading the way. In reality, as we approach the mid-term to the 2030 goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat, we find ourselves off track. This stark reality calls for collective action and renewed commitment. Our path forward demands that we embolden and support all affected communities, ensuring they are not only heard but they are actively shaping and leading strategies that address the unique challenges they face, attuned with the diverse and nuanced realities that they experience in relation to HIV and beyond.
Let us use this year’s World AIDS Day to renew our commitment to the principles of community leadership and facilitate its powerful impact to save and enhance countless millions of lives. Together, we can bridge the gaps, dispel the shadows of stigma, and propel ourselves towards a future where the ravages of the HIV epidemic are but a distant memory – one in which we can celebrate that community leadership lead us towards a future free from the shadows of unnecessary suffering and hastened deaths.”
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Representing 30,000 members, IAPAC is the largest association of clinicians and allied health professionals working to end the epidemics of HIV and tuberculosis (TB), as well as eliminate HBV and HCV, by 2030. IAPAC is the core technical partner to the Fast-Track Cities network and the Secretariat for its Fast-Track Cities Institute. For more information about IAPAC, please visit: https://www.iapac.org/