WHO Regional Director encourages


 By: G Bennie Bravo Johnson I 

World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti has sent a clarion call to governments, civil society, development partners, and all stakeholders to jointly empower communities to lead the HIV response.

In her official statement during the observance of the World AIDS Day 2023 over the weekend under the theme, “Let Communities Lead”, Dr. Moeti admonished the key actors to recommit to providing communities the necessary support and autonomy they need to succeed.

“Let us walk hand in hand with communities and foster an environment where they can indeed lead to an AIDS-free world,” she said.

 The health expert stressed the need to recognize the diversity among communities affected by HIV and ensure that tailored interventions are implemented, addressing the specific needs of key populations such as young and adolescent girls, men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, sex workers, and people who inject drugs.

“Furthermore, we must strive to remove the remaining barriers that prevent individuals from accessing testing, prevention, treatment, and care services. These services’ affordability, availability, and acceptability need to be improved to reach the most marginalized and vulnerable populations,” she added.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa also emphasized the crucial role of community-led monitoring in improving community leadership for HIV.

Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti noted that it is important to recognize that effective community leadership goes beyond advocacy and activism, saying it involves empowering communities with the tools and knowledge to monitor their progress and hold decision-makers accountable.

“Community-led monitoring has been a powerful mechanism. It allows communities to monitor and evaluate HIV programs, policies, and services that directly impact their lives, and help identify human rights violations, stigma, and discrimination within healthcare settings, allowing for prompt interventions and solutions,” the diplomat intoned.

She urged governments, civil society, development partners, and all stakeholders to prioritize innovation, inclusivity, and sustainable strategies to reach those at risk of being left behind.

To let communities lead, Dr. Moeti wants all key actors to listen more to their voices, acknowledge their expertise, and involve them in decision-making at all levels.

“We must build bridges between communities, governments, civil society organizations, and other key stakeholders to foster partnerships based on trust, solidarity, and shared responsibility,” she averred.

“I acknowledge the immense progress made in reducing new infections and AIDS-related deaths. I especially celebrate the strides in increasing access to treatment including the marked progress due to the introduction of new medicines, the adoption of new technologies, and combating stigma,” the WHO Regional Director noted.

At the same time, Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti stressed that the vital role of communities highlights the resilience of communities, the expertise, and most of all, the unwavering commitment to their collective goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

She indicated that the leadership of communities has been instrumental to the remarkable milestones in the fight against HIV and AIDS, adding that communities affected by HIV, including individuals living with the virus, families, friends, and activists, have always been at the forefront of the response.

“In the early days of the response, when the world was in denial, communities spoke up to fight the silence and stigma. They were at the forefront of the fight against discrimination. They were the advocates who campaigned for increased access to antiretroviral therapy and care, ensuring that no one would be left behind,” Dr. Moeti said.

He emphasized that as the African region strives to reach the global targets set for 2025 and 2030, the governments, civil society, development partners, and all stakeholders must continue to create an enabling environment for communities to lead in the HIV response.