On World AIDS Day

This year, on World AIDS Day, the scientific promise for the end of HIV is the brightest it’s ever been. We’re seeing radical new uses for antiretroviral drugs – to prevent the transmission of HIV as well as treat its effects. We’re poised, medically, to bring this epidemic to its knees.

In the face of this great opportunity, the global community responded in one voice, “Forget it. We don’t care.” Things are hard all around, you know, and foreigners with HIV don’t vote in domestic elections. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria just canceled its next round of grants. The WHO is laying off staff. Bilateral donors are cutting aid to global health. Instead of breaking the cycle of HIV transmission, developing nations will be lucky if they can protect the people they already have on treatment.

That may sound dramatic, but look at the numbers. The Global Fund asked donors for $20 billion. It received $11.5.  Everyone from Germany to the USA reneged on their pledges of support.

The impact on the ground is immediate. I have spent the last few days attending emergency meetings where we struggle to save HIV programs in this grim new reality. Everyone, from ministries of health to community NGOs, are getting ready to cut programs if there’s no money to continue them. To abandon people with HIV and people at risk. This is not a cutting the fat situation. We’ve being doing that for years. Now we’re cutting bone.

30 years into the AIDS epidemic, we’re at a crossroads. Things are getting harder. Will we stand up for justice – and logic – and invest in ending this plague? Or will we take the short-term approach? Do the minimum, let the suffering drag on, and trade our future for political capital?

I know which road we’re on now. I should apologize to my children.