LAPC report by Nathan FORD
The need for a radically simplified approach to treatment that combines the best science with the realities of resource-limited settings was highlighted in a session that launched the new UNAIDS “Treatment 2.0” strategy
The head of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, described the release of the new strategy as a “defining moment” and a step towards “doing business differently. ”Universal access, he stressed, is about social justice, redistribution of opportunity, and giving a voice to the voiceless, as well as having better scientific data and making sure we can use all the knowledge we have today. “We need to simplify treatment, to have drugs that can be administered by the community, diagnostics and drugs that are simple and affordable,” he said. “Treatment as prevention is possible if we work together for shared responsibility.”
Dr Julio Montaner, President of the IAS, reminded us that HIV treatment is nearly 100% effective to arrest the disease and slow disease progression, and that there is conclusive evidence that ART is also highly effective at preventing infection.
Kgalema Motlanthe, deputy president of South Africa, both exemplified and demanded the strong political leadership that this will require. “Even as the world experiences an economic downturn, investments in the fight against HIV/AIDS must not be the soft target for austerity measures,” he said, before reaffirming his own governments’ commitment to increasing the budget for making ART accessible to all of our people. Recognizing that HIV/AIDS represents one of the greatest threats to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, he ended by calling for an extension of the universal access target to 2015, in order to bring it in line with the MDG timeframe.
Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Lesotho, said that governments had to implement programmes that “protect the voiceless, the weak, the ill, that protect unborn children and women, programmes that are accessible to all people.” When asked about the potential conflict between human rights and universal access to testing, she said “I could be accused of contravening civil rights, because I want to see every woman tested, every child tested, everyone who walks into a health centre tested. Because it is an emergency.” She also highlighted the importance of her government’s decision to revise the national ART guidelines and push for earlier initiation of ART.
Rolake Odetoyinbo, an AIDS activist and woman living with HIV from Nigeria, highlighted the recent signs of disengagement from certain donors, and described treatment as “non-negotiable.” She called for continued access to funding: “Treatment really is prevention,” she said, “and it should be early, accessible, and universal.”