Just a few days before the start of the 22nd International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, UNAIDS released an explosive report on the state the AIDS pandemic. You can read Health GAP’s reaction to the findings here.
Our takeaway? We are at risk of failing to reach what should be imminently attainable global HIV treatment and prevention targets, not because we don’t have the tools, but because our leaders don’t have the political will to fully fund HIV treatment and prevention, to uphold science, and to defend human rights.
One of the most compelling findings from the report: In 2017, death rates from AIDS essentially stopped declining for men in sub-Saharan Africa (moving from an estimated 303,000 AIDS deaths in 2016 to 300,000 in 2017). Death rates from AIDS have almost flatlined for men and women in East and Southern Africa (declining from only 390,000 to 380,000). What does this mean? By exploring one of the most direct measures of the success of the HIV response—whether or not people are dying of AIDS in an age when treatment should be ensuring a normal lifespan—we see that the response is drastically off track.
While this should be a wake up call that shocks politicians to their senses, we know it will take more than a report to do that.
In 2016, the International AIDS Conference was held in Durban, in the country facing the largest burden of HIV in the world. This was 20 years after the meeting first came to Durban, when people with HIV from around the world demanded investment in affordable HIV treatment for all. We opened the 2016 meeting with a powerful protest of more than 10,000 people from across the country and around the world—and community demands for affordable HIV treatment for all set the table for the week ahead.
This year, thousands of people will come to Amsterdam, which will undoubtedly feel light-years away from the deadly inequities in HIV treatment, prevention, and human rights that are devastating communities around the world. But community outcry is needed even more now than it was two years ago. This meeting means, for one week, the world focuses its attention on the AIDS crisis—including the human costs of political inaction. This is also a moment to shine a light on the powerful leadership of activists around the world.