Amb. Goosby reflects on decade of progress, future of global AIDS fight

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Global AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby and Brookings Institution Fellow Noam Unger discuss the way forward against global AIDS. (Photo by: Science Speaks)

While calling recent scientific advances in HIV prevention “game changers” that have offered hope of an AIDS-free generation, Global AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby said Monday that the successful fight against the epidemic relies on recognizing AIDS-specific efforts so far as a foundation for further health gains, on country ownership, and on continuing to build a “the shared responsibility” of a multi-donor response.

Saying that “hope is taking the place of despair,” Goosby cautioned that gains would not be sustained without focusing on those goals.

Goosby discussed lessons learned from the U.S. response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past decade at an event hosted by the Brookings Institute Monday morning.  Goosby highlighted the accomplishments of PEPFAR in the last ten years saying that while a decade ago almost no one in Africa had access to lifesaving antiretroviral medicine, over 6.6 million people are getting lifesaving treatment thanks to PEPFAR and multilateral donors like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, with the U.S. directly supporting treatment for 3.9 million people worldwide.  In the process, he said, the U.S. has challenged conventional wisdom on what’s possible in global health.

He cautioned, however, against treating PEPFAR as a “one-off health program” saying it should be recognized as a platform for further global health gains.  Refuting claims that the U.S. response to AIDS diverts resources from other global health concerns, he said global AIDS investments have strengthened health infrastructures by training medical personnel, establishing clinics and labs, strengthening commodity and distribution systems, and allowing for other health concerns to be addressed in limited resource settings.

Goosby stressed that donors must address obstacles to country ownership of AIDS-fighting efforts by identifying weaknesses in countries’ responses and tailoring programs to countries’ needs, rather than donor’s needs.  Goosby also stressed that countries must address human rights issues in their responses, especially concerning inclusion of men who have sex with men, injection-drug users, and sex workers.

Ending by stressing the role of multilateral organizations in allowing countries to contribute to large scale efforts, Goosby praised changes at the Global Fund that have improved use and tracking of funds. With PEPFAR and the Global Fund increasingly engaging in joint planning, the epidemic can be beaten, he said: “I have great hope we can do it and get it done.”

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