At the start of this year's AIDS conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed attendees to the United States. It was an important moment given the conference had not been held on U.S. soil for 22 years. While acknowledging that the disease is
still incurable, she did tell the audience of scientists, advocates, doctors, activists and others, that their work has made a huge difference on the journey and in the lives of millions affected. At the close of this year's AIDS Conference (held in the U.S.
for the first time in 22 years), President Clinton urged participants to keep fighting, telling the tens of thousands in attendance that "an AIDS-free generation" still depends upon them.
In a blog post on
SmartGlobalHealth.org, Clinton is quoted as saying that, "People around the world 'are nourishing their dreams and their children’s dreams instead of giving up...We have to deliver for them.'”
And while some have noted that there seemed to be a
"troubling calm" at the conference, that it lacked the powerful anger which fueled the energy of the early '90s fight against AIDS, it may be more fair to say that the approach to fighting the epidemic has necessarily changed with the times, shifting with
the epidemic which requires constant innovation and experimentation in its response. It is also fair to say that there seems to be no less push for an end to this disease.
In 2010 almost 3 million people around the world became infected with HIV and 1.8 million died of AIDS-related causes. Most of those people living with HIV (and dying) are in sub-Saharan Africa. The good news, of course, is that many are living
longer because of expanded access to treatment. And since the start of the epidemic there's been tremendous progress made on the prevention front as well. As Secretary Clinton told the crowd at the start of the conference,
We’re focusing on what we call combination prevention. Our strategy includes condoms, counseling and testing, and places special emphasis on three other interventions: treatment as prevention, voluntary medical male circumcision, and stopping the transmission
of HIV from mothers to children.
But a large focus of President Clinton's speech was devoted to how funding will be maintained.
He praised the
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria and noted that governments of countries who are most affected by the disease are actually stepping up to provide more than half the $16.8 billion spent for HIV/AIDS every year. Still, Clinton urged everyone there
to push for even more creative ways of funding, as well as "targeting prevention effectively."
He cited a UNAIDS study showing that 30% of new infections are driven by high-risk populations, but less than 1% of the prevention funding is targeting those groups.
“We need investments based on evidence, not politics and vested interests that too often drive spending decisions,” he said.
And the fight continues. Read the rest of SmartGlobalHealth.org's post