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COP28 puts health centre stage in global climate talks

Sameera Casmod |
30 November 2023 | 10:03am CAT
1-min read

Picture: UNFCC & Identity global

As the 28th United Nations Climate Conference, COP28, commences in the UAE today, a significant shift towards prioritising health emerges on the agenda. Policymakers worldwide unite to navigate the complex landscape of climate change, with a particular emphasis on its impact on global well-being.

This year marks a pivotal moment as COP28 introduces a dedicated Health Day, underscoring the importance of addressing health challenges linked to environmental changes. A third of participating countries have already dispatched their health ministers, totalling 65 representatives. The World Health Organisation is advocating for the endorsement of a special health declaration, urging nations to commit resources to mitigate the effects of evolving weather patterns on public health.

Mia Malan, from the Bhekisisa Centere for Health Journalism, discusses the connection between climate change and health. Contrary to creating new diseases, climate change can intensify existing health issues. Malan illustrates this with an example involving HIV and the imminent World AIDS Day.

The accelerated warming of the Earth contributes to increased floods, droughts, and heatwaves, posing formidable challenges for individuals managing chronic diseases like HIV. Accessing medication becomes a daunting task amid disrupted infrastructure caused by climate-related events. Malan emphasises that maintaining consistent treatment is crucial for managing HIV effectively.

The link between climate change and health unfolds in a cascading effect. Disruptions in HIV treatment not only compromise the well-being of those living with the virus but also elevate the risk of other diseases, notably Tuberculosis (TB). Climate-induced displacement and crowded living conditions further amplify the spread of TB. Research underscores the interconnected nature of health issues, revealing links between TB, diabetes, and disrupted HIV treatment.

As Mia Malan concludes her discussion, she emphasises the fragility of progress made in the past three decades in combating HIV.

“Since the mid-90s, for the past 30 years, we’ve brought down new HIV infections by 60%. And that’s largely because of treatment and because treatment makes people less infectious. If we disrupt that, it means HIV starts to spread again,” Malan said.

Listen to the full interview on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat:


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