Institutions around the globe are scaling up efforts to prevent contraction and spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
The focus is now shifting towards getting as many people as possible to know their status.
The United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), is incorporating media institutions to sensitize people, especially in Africa to embrace the culture of voluntary testing to ascertain their health status, in its bid to end the AIDS epidemic as public health threat by the year 2030.
In light of this, UNAIDS recently penned a deal with China’s media giant StarTimes Group where the two institutions will work together to increase awareness about the disease and reduce stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV.
This memorandum of understanding was however reached amid grave statistics.
“We have 45% of people who are HIV Positive yet they don’t know. They will continue to spread the disease unknowingly.” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe disclosed.
In the deal, several programs will be televised across the broadcast networks of StarTimes which is available all over Africa.
“We are joining you to fight this enemy of mankind. It is an effort of the whole world,” charged StarTimes Group president Pang Xinxing.
The UNAIDS Executive Director expressed optimism that the epidemic will be controlled significantly if people have sufficient knowledge about protecting themselves.
“We need to put more people on treatment. If we do that, we will have achieved a lot. I am glad we have a deal. We want to reach 18 million people who don’t have access to medication. Their lives remain in the balance” Sidibe said.
Sidibe holds the view that adequate information will arm the people with the tools and power to take good care of themselves even as he rallied all the stakeholders to double their efforts in order to attain zero affection, zero death and zero stigmatization and discrimination.
“If we manage to reach people where they are, sensitize them on condom use, equipping them with information, then we will be able to reduce new infections considerably,” he said.
His sentiments resonated well with the StarTimes President who insists that “Information is the foundation to winning the war against AIDS. This disease can be exterminated as long as we all work together.”
In his opinion, Pang said mankind is on the road to victory against the epidemic but expressed concern over challenges in relaying of information about prevention of the virus to nearly all populations.
“StarTimes has decided to work with UNAIDS because we have the capacity and we have our own social responsibility and that’s why we joined hands together,” said Mr. Pang
According to Pang, StarTimes began HIV/AIDS programs on its network back in 2016 and was even involved in transmission of information about Ebola in a number of West African countries during the virus’ outbreak in 2014 and 2015.
StarTimes has undertaken to broadcast HIV/AIDS messages about prevention, early testing and treatment to over 45 countries in Africa without any cost to the UN agency. In the opinion of Sidibe, this decision is overwhelming.
“If we continue at the same pace and accelerate, we will be able to put more people on treatment and reduce the transmission at 95% from person to person,” the UN Executive Director said.
Even more appealing to the UNAIDS is the ongoing project by StarTimes to reach 10,000 villages in Africa. These villages, remotest as they may be, will be able to receive digital TV signals through StarTimes’ newly developed solar-powered projector screens.