What have we learned at AIDS 2022?
UnitedGMH and its partners have conclusively shown it is possible to reduce the number of HIV infections and deaths if investment is made in mental health support.
Change is underway, and there is willingness from all to work together to achieve it rapidly.
By Sarah Kline, CEO and Co-Founder of UnitedGMH.
In the past week in Montreal, the #AIDS2022 conference organised by the International AIDS Society (IAS) took place.
It was the latest, in what are regularly the largest gatherings of the HIV/AIDs community; and this year represented an important opportunity to highlight the importance of mental health support for all who need it, and the tangible difference it could represent.
A diverse range of mental health events were held, three of which United for Global Mental Health led in partnership with the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), the Lancet HIV, IAS, the Global Fund Advocates Network, UNICEF, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and Zimbabwean NGO Zvandiri.
So, what did we learn at #AIDS2022 this year?
- There is no doubt: people at risk of or living with HIV want mental health and wider wellness support.
- There is more than sufficient evidence to show the benefits of providing this support and how to do so effectively in all countries.
- There is a huge willingness on the part of all stakeholders – government, CSOs, UN agencies, funders – to work together to rapidly achieve change.
Currently, there is little investment- but change is underway.
Forward thinking philanthropic organisations such as EJAF have already expressed support, with Lindsay Hayden, Head for the Young People Portfolio at EJAF remarking that:
‘The return and cost effectiveness of investing in mental health as part of HIV programmes made it an easy decision for us to integrate mental health into our programmes.’
And with the inclusion of mental health in the new Global Fund strategy, alongside this growing philanthropic support, the potential for tangible new investment is both real and achievable.
Together the message that was given was loud and clear:
We can successfully support the mental health of those at risk or living with HIV and this will improve wellbeing and save lives.