The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) made a historic agreement to work together in developing countries at the 19th International AIDS Conference this week. The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, and the Director General of WHO, Margaret Chan, signed a ‘letter of agreement’ which outlines their commitment to integrate HIV/AIDs and NCD programmes in low and middle income countries.
This is a significant moment, ending an era of isolation of the HIV/AIDS response and siloes between HIV/AIDs programmes and other diseases. It is clear evidence that the UN Summit and Political Declaration on NCDs in 2011, which called for the integration of HIV/AIDS and NCD responses, has fundamentally changed the global health landscape and initiated real change for diabetes on the ground.
The collaboration between WHO and UNAIDS will focus on joint advocacy, technical support and information and accountability for these diseases. This is the only the beginning of their cooperation, and more agreements are expected. At a side event on HIV and chronic diseases, the UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Dr Paul De Lay stated “UNAIDS is committed to take AIDS out of isolation (…) we need to take on our biggest health and development challenges of our time - HIV and NCDs - together.”
IDF has long called for the integration of HIV and NCD responses – as these chronic diseases share similar needs in prevention, management, diagnosis, ongoing care, education and monitoring. At the 2011 International Aids Society Conference in Rome, IDF co-hosted a side event on HIV and NCDs, which explored the connections between the two diseases.
However, most health systems in low and middle income countries remain focused on combatting infectious diseases such as HIV and are ill-equipped to cope with the rising burden of diabetes and NCDs.
The announcement, and the cooperation between these two leading global health agencies, means health systems in developing countries can finally begin to respond to the reality of the diabetes and NCD epidemic.
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