Fast Track, the strategy geared to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, which was outlined by UNAIDS at a side event to the United Nations General Assembly last week, notes that international efforts have produced impressive gains against HIV globally. But, the brochure describing the strategy notes, “the gap between where the response is now, and where it should be is wide.” To fill that gap, the strategy proposes going after HIV where it has taken its highest tolls, to ensure that within the next five years 90 percent of people living with HIV know it, that 90 percent of people who know they have HIV have access to treatment, and 90 percent of people on HIV treatment are able to suppress their virus to the point that it is undetectable. Noting that the world has agreed these targets are essential, the strategy notes that none of that will be possible without protecting human rights. That means protecting the rights of people involved in commercial sex work, transgender individuals, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and young women and girls to live without fear and access means of harm reduction and health services. That strategy, the brochure outlining it notes, will make the most of available investments.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry embraced the strategy at the event where UNAIDS Director Michel Sidibe, along with Swiss Confederation President Didier Burkhalter, Ghana President John Dramani Mahama, and South Africa President Jacob Zuma described it. Emphasizing that efforts must focus on “children, young women and vulnerable populations,” Kerry pointed to the partnership announced in August between the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. The partnership has the specific aim, in a specific number of countries to be selected, to get treatment to 300,000 more children living with HIV. With less specificity, Kerry also announced the availability of $500 million in PEPFAR funds to support efforts for “children, young women, and vulnerable populations.”
Health GAP (Global Access Project) leaders welcomed the strategy and Sec. Kerry’s support for it, but also questioned whether funding currently allotted to PEPFAR is sufficient to make it reality. AVAC, Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, noted the critical role that a recently announced price drop of viral load tests by Roche Diagnostics, worked out with the South Africa Government — the worlds largest purchaser of the tests — the Clinton Health Access Initiative, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria will play in making the strategy possible. But, the post on AVAC’s P-Values blog adds, “the best and most affordable technologies and medicines won’t end the epidemic if people cannot access them.” The blog also quotes the Kenyan chairperson of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS and AVAC Advocacy Fellow Teresia Otieno, who lives with HIV and is a mother of two. Imagining the world of 2030, in which HIV has been controlled and contained, and when she hopes to be 56 years old, she described the modest goals of what is being called an ambitious strategy — of being able to take better and cheaper medicine for her own illness, her husband still uninfected, and her daughter able to protect herself from both illness and unintended pregnancy.