As November winds down, we are turning our focus this week to December 1 and World AIDS Day.
In the days leading up to December 1, The New York Times published a piece exploring how expanding technology has changed the nature of India’s sex industry. Women are experiencing both increased autonomy and financial benefits, since they no longer have to rely on brothels. However, this autonomy may pose long-term problems for a country who was once predicted to ultimately become the “focal point” of the AIDS epidemic, and to see 25 million people with AIDS by 2010. Targeted outreach to high-risk groups, including prostitutes were hallmarks of the country’s success. In addition, foundations such as the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provided ample financial resources in support of these efforts. Today, India is dealing with approximately 1.5 million cases of AIDS, a staggeringly different number from what was predicted. However, Gates foundation funding is poised to stop in the coming months. In addition, the fear is that technology will disperse one of the country’s most vulnerable populations, and make education and prevention almost impossible.
But that doesn’t mean groups will stop trying. Yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the “PEPFAR Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation”. The plan’s overall vision is that while “smart investments based on sound science and a shared global responsibility” will be key if we want to “save millions of lives and achieve an AIDS-free generation. The plan sees a path to this vision through five over-arching goals:
- Make strategic, scientifically sound investments to rapidly scale-up core HIV prevention, treatment and care interventions and maximize impact.
- Work with partner countries, donor nations, civil society, people living with HIV, faith-based organizations, the private sector, foundations and multilateral institutions to effectively mobilize, coordinate and efficiently utilize resources to expand high-impact strategies, saving more lives sooner.
- Focus on women and girls to increase gender equality in HIV services.
- End stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and key populations, improving their access to, and uptake of, comprehensive HIV services.
- Set benchmarks for outcomes and programmatic efficiencies through regularly assessed planning and reporting processes to ensure goals are being met.
We have reason to hope. The PEPFAR blueprint comes on the heels of “Results”, a November 20 report released by UNAIDS that finds, among other things, that “between 2001 and 2011, HIV incidence in 25 countries declined by more than 50 percent and decreased by 20 percent worldwide. Since 2005, the number of AIDS-related deaths has declined by almost one-third.”