AIDS: The Other Pandemic

In Global Advocacy, Global Featured by Fiona Ip

After nearly two years of the world’s attention being fixed upon COVID-19, AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s World AIDS Day (WAD) 2021 theme – “AIDS: The Other Pandemic” – has never been more relevant. This timely motto serves as both a reminder and wake-up call that HIV has raged for nearly 40 years and millions of people worldwide still don’t have access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment.

The latest UNAIDS report released just ahead of WAD 2021 warns that unless urgent action is taken, “the world could face 7.7 million AIDS-related deaths over the next 10 years.” A recent Global Fund study also shows COVID-19 significantly impacted health systems and HIV service delivery in low- and middle-income countries.

Debating which pandemic is more important is pointless—COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS simultaneously must be top priorities for all nations, or both will continue claiming millions of lives,” said Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy at AHF. “Both pandemics are eerily and tragically similar in that, with vaccines and antiretroviral treatment, we have the tools to control both viruses and save lives – but pharma greed and the lack of political will stand in the way of protecting people’s health. This World AIDS Day is a wake-up call to all of us as activists, medical professionals, patient advocates, and allies. Unless we keep world leaders accountable, humanity faces many more years of devastation from these pandemics—we in good conscience cannot allow that to happen.”

If you are looking to re-light the fire of advocacy and inspire those around you, join us in solidarity as we commemorate World AIDS Day — visit AHF’s World AIDS Day website to find live or virtual events near you!

To inspire you, we share messages below from AHF leaders around the world who, along with their teams, fight to save lives everyday. Together, we can make sure the world never forgets about “AIDS: The Other Pandemic.”

Click the map to see events happening around the world!

“While we’ve made great progress fighting HIV/AIDS worldwide, COVID-19 is threatening to erase those precious gains by disrupting the world’s ability to continue responding to HIV, particularly in our most vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Penninah Iutung, AHF’s Africa Bureau Chief. “COVID-19 has also shown the glaring need for the world to prioritize solidarity and collaboration on vaccine access – and not charity from wealthy countries – as the way to end this crisis and lay the groundwork to protect against future ones. It’s time that world leaders acknowledge we’re an interconnected world and act accordingly by ensuring those most in need, whether for HIV or COVID-19, get the resources they need to lead healthy, productive lives.


“The devastation across Latin America and the Caribbean that COVID-19 has brought has been catastrophic to countries’ populations and health systems – yet ‘The Other Pandemic’ continues to also plague the region, particularly among our most vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Patricia Campos, Bureau Chief for AHF Latin America and the Caribbean. “Government leaders must continue to prioritize HIV prevention, testing, and treatment programs in the face of the novel coronavirus, or decades of fragile progress will be lost. We cannot trade one crisis for another – the world must find ways to battle both at once effectively. World AIDS Day offers us the opportunity to make sure we never forget that poignant reality.”


“COVID-19 has been a devastating wake-up call for the world, especially across Asia, where people in many countries have limited vaccine access, have lost the ability to work and are experiencing food insecurity. Strict lockdowns have also affected many areas of society, including inhibiting the region’s ability to respond to HIV and threatening decades of progress,” said Dr. Chhim Sarath, Bureau Chief for AHF Asia. “World AIDS Day allows us to reflect on that progress and remind everyone that millions of people, particularly in our most vulnerable populations, still do not have access to lifesaving medicines. Even with COVID-19 still in the spotlight, world leaders also must continue to do more to also end the deadly ‘Other Pandemic.’”


“Europe, just like most of the world, continues battling two pandemics at once. Yet, while one perpetually remains in the spotlight and headlines, ‘AIDS: The Other Pandemic’ continues to be a deadly killer, particularly among our most vulnerable populations, that the world must also never forget,” said Zoya Shabarova, Bureau Chief for AHF Europe. “While European and other world leaders must continue battling the novel coronavirus, they must concurrently guarantee that the HIV response has all the resources needed to protect the gains we’ve made over the last three-plus decades. We’ve made great progress, some of which the COVID-19 response could learn from—but there’s still much work left to do.”


“COVID-19 has greatly impacted India, yet the country maintains the second-worst HIV/AIDS burden in the world. ‘The Other Pandemic’ continues to rage across India, particularly among our most vulnerable populations. Unless we keep fighting with the same fervor that has helped to get HIV under control, AIDS will be responsible for millions more avoidable deaths,” said Dr. V. Sam Prasad, Country Program Director for AHF India Cares. “While India is committed to helping the world recover from COVID-19 by increasing vaccine access – the only way for people living with HIV to live a healthy life is to get access to lifesaving treatment. Indian and world leaders must continue efforts to end AIDS – even in the face of COVID-19 or other inevitable future health crises.”



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