This past July the 22nd International Aids Conference took place in Amsterdam, raising warnings and doubts about the ability to achieve control of the worldwide HIV epidemic by 2030 (Bressy). For many years, science, activism, government, and medicine have come together in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This has been further strengthened due to the UN’s establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2016. Through cooperation, these communities have attempted to address the big challenges facing the AIDS epidemic today, such as the deadly stigma around the virus, the work needed to prioritize treatment and research, and the necessity of the world’s governments to play their role in tackling the epidemic.
What we have learned is that we succeed when we put people at the heart of strategies for change. When we give respect to the young women who are at risk of contracting this disease from their partner, or when we try to understand the perspective of the man who lacks access to information and testing, we can begin to humanize the aspects of the epidemic that are arising from socially constructed problems. When we recognize the huge potential of people living with HIV to help guide the delivery of services and campaign against stigma while creating platforms for young people to shape and direct the services they rely on, we will be able make a real and lasting difference for the 36.9 million people worldwide who are still living with HIV/AIDS as of 2017 (WHO).
The theme of the last AIDS conference was “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges”, seeking to put an end to ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches that do not work in global responses to HIV/AIDS. It is, after all, a humanitarian emergency requiring not just a short-term oriented solution but rather a long-term approach. This fight must encourage a culture of education, focusing on ending stigma, promoting confidential counseling and testing, and providing comprehensive treatment support and medical care (antiretroviral treatment, ART). Such needs must be taken into account in order to attain the Universal Health Coverage (SDG 3.8: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for those of all ages; Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all) proposed by the Sustainable Development goals of 2030. On top of this, approaches must be personalized in terms of culture and context in order to deliver meaningful results for specific communities and regions (Abassi).
There is no question that proper education is a crucial factor in ensuring long-term diminishment of HIV contraction. “Higher education attainment is consistently negatively corr
elated with HIV prevalence since it enhances self-protection, inspires students to develop long-term goals (such as delaying sex or using protection), and increases chances of employment, and to some extent, financial security” (Igulot and Magadi). All of these factors work to reduce the individual’s vulnerability.
After all, the bedrock of all demand creation is education. The positive feedback loop of change goes like this: education generates demand, which brings to light calls for advocacy, which then can work to bring further change. If individuals have the proper knowledge, then they become aware of their needs and can therefore demand convenient services and medical treatments.
Abassi: Dr. Huma Abbasi, General Manager, Global Health and Medical, Chevron Corporation. May 30 2018.
Bressy: Bressy, Julien. “AIDS 2018 Conference in Amsterdam: meeting the 2030 goals with a new impetus to the fight against HIV/AIDS”. Conseil National du Sida et des Hépatites Virales, 22 July 2018, https://cns.sante.fr/press-release/aids-2018-conference-in-amsterdam-meeting-the-2030-goals-with-a-new-impetus-to-the-fight-against-hivaids/
Igulot and Magadi: Patrick Igulot and Monica A. Magadi.” Socioeconomic Status and Vulnerability to HIV Infection in Uganda: Evidence from Multilevel Modelling of AIDS Indicator Survey Data”. Published 7 June 2018. AIDS Research and Treatment. Volume 2018, Article ID 7812146. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/art/2018/7812146/
Solange: Baptiste Solange. “Creating Demand for Differentiated Service Delivery”. International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, South Africa. July 23 2018 at International AIDS Conference 2018. http://programme.aids2018.org/
The Global Fund: Published 12 September 2018 https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/hivaids/
WHO: World Health Organization, Global Health Observatory data, “HIV/AIDS”. http://www.who.int/gho/hiv/en/