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World AIDS DAY 2013 - Day 5: What’s the Future of HIV?

Posted: Dec 06, 2013 · Posted by: Julia Robinson, Technical Advisor for Country Programs

Welcome back to our fifth and final day of HAI’s series commemorating World AIDS Day 2013!  So far this week HAI’s Dr. James Cowan took a look at an innovative collaboration between HAI and the Ministry of Health of Mozambique to combat the double scourge of HIV and TB; HAI-CI’s Naraba Coulibaly sat down with a woman living with HIV in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire; HAI’s Ahoua Kone gave us a field report comparing how HIV services are delivered in Mozambique and Cote d’Ivoire; and yesterday we got a snapshot as to what the HIV scene in Washington State looks like.  Today we’ll look ahead and tackle the question – what’s next for HIV?

The 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day prompted announcements from all sorts of world leaders and public health officials declaring that the end of AIDS is in sight.  US President Barack Obama lauded PEPFAR’s achievements, saying that the US-funded program has helped 6.7 million people get access to HIV treatment – exceeding the 6 million target set on World AIDS Day 2011.  He marked World AIDS Day by signing the PEPFAR Reauthorization act into law and pledged $5 billion dollars to the Global Fund.  Leaders from across Africa, Europe, and elsewhere also made statements, celebrating successes thus far and exhorting the world to continue on in its fight against AIDS.

                                                                                  
                                                                                   Photo: HAI staff

But what is the future of HIV eradication?  New scientific advances hint that a cure or a vaccine might be tantalizingly close, but in the immediate future, HIV care and treatment services need to be delivered at the health site level to the people that need it most.  The WHO recently released new guidelines for earlier initiation of HIV treatment which they believe can prevent up to 3.5 million new infections by 2025 – and it’s up to organizations like HAI to now work in solidarity with Ministries of Health to implement these new guidelines.  Through programs such as HAI-Mozambique’s Option B+ project, HAI-Mozambique and HAI-Cote d’Ivoire’s joint research study looking at ways in which we can help streamline essential services at health clinics, we are working in solidarity with governments to ensure that all people have access to quality health care services no matter where they live in the world.

                                                                                   
                                                                                    Photo: Joe Lara

HAI is also pushing hard to help governments, NGOs, and donors advocate for better conditions for which governments can hire and retain qualified health workers to deliver these critical drugs and services to people who need them the most.  The end of AIDS will not be possible without a strong public sector that is able to reach vulnerable populations, because scaling up HIV treatment is impossible without a strong workforce to fortify the public sector.  That’s why HAI has joined with a number of organizations to create and disseminate the NGO Code of Conduct for Health Systems Strengthening, which lays out best practices for NGOs, donors, and governments.  It’s a powerful tool that holds NGOs accountable to the host countries in which they work – and we are always looking for allies to sign onto the code and commit to working in solidarity with Ministries of Health throughout the world.

Is the end of AIDS possible in our lifetimes?  There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future, and HAI will continue to work to support public sector health systems and towards a future where health is accessible for all.

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