AIDS Epidemic: The End is Here. Not quite.
Toronto, December 1, 2012
For immediate release
Since 2011, the rallying cry heard around the world has been that the end of AIDS, a disease that has devastated communities and killed over 30 million people, was near. Many of us have been seduced by pronouncements about an AIDS-Free Generation being possible and within reach. Just days ago, UNAIDS released a global report stating that the number of people newly infected continues to fall and 8 million people are now receiving treatment; a remarkable and laudable achievement to be sure.
There are more people on treatment than ever before, scientific advances have reduced the risk of HIV transmission and prolonged and enhanced the quality of life of those living with HIV. But like a game of telephone played in a school yard, the original meaning somehow got distorted and the word near became here. Instead of redoubling their efforts, donors have become complacent and self-congratulatory. Governments are scaling back their commitments and AIDS service and advocacy organizations and, most importantly, the communities they serve are feeling the squeeze. We’re being told that HIV is no longer a priority. There are rumblings that the post-2015 health agenda will focus on cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other less politicized afflictions. HIV is no longer seen as a crisis; ironically the AIDS response is being dealt a blow by its own success.
New biomedical interventions provide important new mechanisms to save lives and prevent infection. But their promise can only be utilized in the context of human rights protections, equity and a full array of support services. There have been cases of people being coerced into taking ARVs, circumcised or sterilized without proper knowledge or informed consent- all in the name of saving lives. ARVs have been critical in the fight against HIV but there are not innocuous and side effects can compromise adherence. Circumcision, depending on how it is performed, can carry a risk of complications. Forced sterilization contravenes a women’s right to exert control over own body and chose the size of her family. The list goes on.
Human rights issues are not new to HIV; the epidemic thrives in inequality, poverty and exclusion, and exposes the fault lines of our unjust societies. To truly and authentically envision the end of AIDS, we have to tackle the systemic marginalization of key affected populations at the heart of the epidemic. No pill, surgical intervention or even a vaccine alone has the power to end AIDS. To achieve the AIDS targets by 2015 is possible but it will require significant effort. We collectively can no longer be content to do the best we can with what we have, we have to succeed in doing what is necessary-until WE end AIDS.
On this World AIDS Day we call upon advocates, donors, governments and UN agencies to work together to ensure:
- Donors fulfill and where warranted, increase their technical, political and financial commitments to fight the AIDS epidemic.
- HIV remains a priority in health and development agendas now, up to and beyond 2015.
- Human rights are promoted and respected as a key component of the AIDS response.
Since its creation in 1991, ICASO has facilitated the inclusion and leadership of communities in the effort to bring about an end to the AIDS pandemic, recognizing the importance of promoting health and human rights as part of this undertaking.
For more information, please contact:
Mary Ann Torres
+1 416 419-6338
Information on the work of ICASO and its partners is available at www.icaso.org