Removing the societal and legal impediments to the HIV response: An evidence-based framework for 2025 and beyond

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Societal and legal impediments inhibit quality HIV prevention, care, treatment and support services and need to be removed. The political declaration adopted by UN member countries at the high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS in June 2021, included new societal enabler global targets for achievement by 2025 that will address this gap. Our paper describes how and why UNAIDS arrived at the societal enabler targets adopted. We conducted a scoping review and led a participatory process between January 2019 and June 2020 to develop an evidence-based framework for action, propose global societal enabler targets, and identify indicators for monitoring progress. A re-envisioned framework called the ‘3 S’s of the HIV response: Society, Systems and Services’ was defined. In the framework, societal enablers enhance the effectiveness of HIV programmes by removing impediments to service availability, access and uptake at the societal level, while service and system enablers improve efficiencies in and expand the reach of HIV services and systems. Investments in societal enabling approaches that remove legal barriers, shift harmful social and gender norms, reduce inequalities and improve institutional and community structures are needed to progressively realize four overarching societal enablers, the first three of which fall within the purview of the HIV sector: (i) societies with supportive legal environments and access to justice, (ii) gender equal societies, (iii) societies free from stigma and discrimination, and (iv) co-action across development sectors to reduce exclusion and poverty. Three top-line and 15 detailed targets were recommended for monitoring progress towards their achievement. The clear articulation of societal enablers in the re-envisioned framework should have a substantial impact on improving the effectiveness of core HIV programmes if implemented. Together with the new global targets, the framework will also galvanize advocacy to scale up societal enabling approaches with proven impact on HIV outcomes.