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Our five stand-out moments of 2022

Hester Phillips

22 December 2022

From breakthroughs on HIV prevention to a global monkeypox outbreak and the continuing fallout of COVID-19, this has been a year of highs and lows. We look back on five of the most significant moments.  

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Photo credit: iStock/CHUYN

As another year draws to a close, we look back on five of the most significant moments for HIV and sexual and reproductive health in 2022. 

1. The rise of injectable PrEP 

This has been the year of injectable PrEP, with news in January that the USA had improved long-acting cabotegravir (or CAB-LA). In October, Zimbabwe became the first country in Africa and third in the world to approve injectable PrEP. Soon after, South Africa announced it will make injectable PrEP available for adolescent girls and young women through a pilot starting next year. This will be the first of many PrEP injection pilots in South Africa, and the results will be used to inform a national rollout. More recently, Uganda announced similar plans, suggesting a wider choice for HIV prevention could soon be on the horizon. 

2. COVID-19 news kept coming  

Knowledge on the links between COVID-19 and HIV grew as more studies were published. In October, findings from two major studies in the USA and Denmark suggested that people with HIV who are vaccinated are unlikely to get seriously ill or die from COVID-19, but people with low CD4 counts are more at risk.  

Sadly, we have also seen the continuing toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the HIV response. In May, we reported on how two years of COVID-19 had derailed HIV services for adolescents in South Africa. In June, the first evidence review from South East Asia found COVID-19 had caused ‘substantial disruption’ to HIV and TB services and more damage to progress than previously thought. In August, UNAIDS reported that the target on HIV infections had been missed by more than one million due to set backs caused by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. If current trends continue the number of new infections each year could still be 1.2 million by 2025, triple the UN target. 

3. Monkeypox 

In July, a global outbreak of monkeypox in more than 70 countries led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare an international public health emergency. Monkeypox is not sexually transmitted, but it is passed on through close contact which happens a lot during sex. In this case, the global outbreak was mainly spreading through the sexual networks of gay men and other men who have sex with men, although monkeypox can infect anyone. In November, WHO renamed monkeypox ‘mpox’ to reduce the stigma associated with it. 

4. Inequalities take centre stage  

UNAIDS and the Global Fund continued to put inequalities in the spotlight this year, as demonstrated by UNAIDS’ World AIDS Day campaign Equalize. The message is now clear that the HIV epidemic is driven by inequalities relating to things like gender, age, sexual orientation, poverty, stigma, and the criminalisation of certain groups. Echoing this, in October we reported how HIV and criminalisation is causing disproportionate harm to women, sex workers, racial minorities, gay and bisexual men, transgender people, immigrants and indigenous people. We also reported on growing evidence that climate change is affecting HIV epidemics in Africa and elsewhere, with people in low and middle-income countries worse affected.  

5. We said hello to Be in the KNOW 

And how could we look back on 2022 without mentioning the launch of this very website in March, which replaced Avert.org? Part of a wider digital brand, Be in the KNOW provides trusted, engaging and sex-positive content to help young people understand, discuss and take action to protect their sexual health. And it’s an approach which has been proven to be work. In August, we reported that Be in the KNOW Zambia – a digital platform co-created with and for young people in the country – increased young people’s knowledge of condoms, made them more likely to test for HIV and STIs, and doubled their resistance to peer pressure.  

So that’s it for 2022. We’ll be back in January to bring you the very latest on sexual health and HIV in 2023. 

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