WASHINGTON, D.C. — The International AIDS Conference, a mega-meeting of more than 20,000 people, has opened here to fanfare, protests, calls to action and (overly?) ambitious proclamations aimed at fighting complacency.
The world’s biggest AIDS conference has returned to the U.S. – to a city with HIV infection rates comparable to some African nations – after 22 years of ‘separation’ due to our government’s ban against HIV-infected visitors. The Obama Administration repealed the travel ban in 2010.
It appears to be a critical moment for the global response to AIDS. The theme of AIDS 2012 is “Turning the Tide Together.”
This positive message has been accompanied by many speakers and organizations here claiming, sometimes in verbatim echo, that we are on the crest of finding a “cure” for AIDS, of creating an “AIDS-free generation” or “the end of AIDS.
“We can, with the technology we have today, end the epidemic,” said Mark Dybul, former director of the President George W. Bush’s ground-breaking and successful initiative to get AIDS drugs to Africa known as PEPFAR.
”We look toward the end of AIDS as something realistic,” said Jim Kim, an activist physician who President Obama recently tapped to take over at the World Bank.
“We have everything we need to beat this epidemic,” said Michel Sidibe, director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
Most folks here are talking like that and it sounds great, very hopeful. But if you dig a bit deeper, it’s not clear if there’s evidence to support all these claims. Bill Gates, at a plenary talk today, joined the minority of skeptics questioning these rallying cries.
“We don’t have the tools to end the epidemic,” said Gates, citing the lack of an effective AIDS vaccine as the most critical weapon needed to defeat the pandemic. “Only when we have these new tools can we seriously talk about moving toward the end.” Continue reading →
As we continue this week’s celebration (or denunciation, depending upon your perspective) of the world’s efforts to fight poverty, improve health and make the world a better place, it’s worth paying attention to a little side issue that keeps popping up.
Money. Everyone says we need more, of course. And everyone is also talking about making these efforts more “efficient” or “strategic.”
On the health front, some say what we need is a new, comprehensive Global Health Fund — to consolidate all of the various funding mechanisms that are now focused on single diseases or other health problems.
I think that’s just fantastic, as in a fantasy, and maybe even harmful. Continue reading →