Friday, July 20, 2012
Two of the world’s leading AIDS advocacy organizations have released a global action agenda to accelerate progress toward ending AIDS. The agenda identifies five major short-term priorities for global AIDS programs together with realistic, annual targets that must be achieved through 2015.
The recommended actions, if taken together, could accelerate achievement of a “tipping point” in the global AIDS epidemic, at which—for the first time ever—the number of people gaining access to HIV therapy will outpace the number of people becoming newly infected.
Recent breakthroughs have expanded the range of effective HIV prevention methods and led to new optimism in the AIDS field. After clinical trials demonstrated that antiretroviral treatment (ART) in HIV-positive people can reduce the risk of HIV transmission, and that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and other new tools can significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection in HIV-negative people, leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly embraced the possibility of creating an “AIDS-free generation.” Despite these encouraging statements, however, global AIDS efforts continue to lack coherent priorities and are threatened by funding cuts.
The agenda lays out essential steps that must be taken year by year through 2015 by governments; international organizations, donors and stakeholders; civil society; researchers; and technical agencies. These action steps fall within five overarching priorities:
- Scale up core interventions that can have the greatest impact, including HIV testing and treatment, VMMC, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and evidence-based, human rights-based interventions for those at greatest risk.
- Mobilize sufficient, sustainable resources to ensure rapid scale-up.
- Agree on clear roles and responsibilities and accountability for results, through agreed timelines, target outcomes, transparent reporting and real-time assessment of results.
- Build the evidence base to end AIDS by prioritizing research on the most effective ways to implement new prevention strategies, and the continued search for a preventive vaccine and a cure.
- Use every dollar of funding as effectively as possible by lowering the unit costs of core interventions, improving program management and strategically targeting services.
In addition, the report lists a series of key results that must be achieved each year from 2012 through 2015, including cutting the numbers of new HIV infections and deaths and more specific epidemiological and policy-based milestones tied to the global scale-up of critical interventions.
By steadily reducing annual new HIV infections and simultaneously continuing to expand access to HIV treatment, the report authors project a global “tipping point” can be achieved within two to three years. At that time, roughly 1.75 million people would gain access to HIV therapy annually, exceeding—for the first time ever—the number of annual HIV infections, which would fall close to 1.5 million. This shift would mark a critical step in controlling the global epidemic.