Activism and AIDS: Protect civil society’s space to end the epidemic

As of 2018, 37.9 million people globally were living with HIV. 74.9 million people had become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic and 32 million people had died from AIDS-related illnesses. In 2018 alone, 770,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses, while 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV. Reductions in new infections are stalling and progress is significantly off track from the goal of only 500,000 people newly infected with HIV by 2020.

Civil society efforts have been critical to overcoming many of the major challenges in the AIDS response. Networks of people living with HIV and AIDS deliver life-changing services to those most affected and provide support for adherence to treatment, prevention and other essential health services.

The involvement of civil society has also been crucial in successfully advocating for sustainable financial resources, improving HIV and AIDS programming, and advancing human rights, as seen in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, according to the International Centre for Notfor-Profit Law.2

But these achievements are at risk. Globally, we are witnessing the harmful effects of rising populism and ultra-conservatism on civil society space, especially for organisations and networks led by stigmatised and marginalised communities.

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