Let's end the AIDS epidemic together
HIV/AIDS This World Aids Day, there’s a target and a prediction we should all focus on: ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 or facing a return to the darkest days of the disease.
I have been part of the fight to end AIDS for 25 years. In that time there have been so many predictions, deadlines and targets. Some have been wrong: AIDS did not become a universal killer as was once feared but it did tear through the heterosexual community in Africa, which still accounts for the majority of AIDS deaths worldwide. The global response didn’t manage to put three million people on HIV treatment by 2005 as WHO challenged us to, but that target accelerated progress and today ten million people around the world have been saved by antiretroviral medication.
This World Aids Day, there’s a target and a prediction we should all focus on: ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 or facing a return to the darkest days of the disease. At the United Nations General Assembly this year, world leaders committed themselves to the 2030 target. Why? The medicines we now have, as multiple clinical trials prove, are cheap and effective enough to return patients to normal life expectancy and reduce their infectiousness to others by up to 96 per cent. Add to this pre-exposure prophylaxis, male circumcision, prevention of mother to child transmission, paediatric care and support, and we have the arsenal to reduce AIDS from the headline of infectious diseases to a footnote.
If we don’t deploy the arsenal now, we risk a mutation of the HIV virus and the long, hugely costly road to new medical formulations. At the same time, a global population bulge amongst youth who, with or without their consent, are becoming sexually active means the next generation is at risk. Indeed AIDS is the second largest killer of adolescents in the world.
And finally, and always, there is stigma.
Compounded more recently by homophobic laws in many countries, the spectre of shame that hangs over HIV and how it’s transmitted is still enough to keep the most vulnerable – LGBT, drug users, sex workers, people in prison – cowering in the shadows.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation will do everything we can to help reach the 2030 target. This year, we launched a new $10m fund in partnership with the US government’s PEPFAR programme which will support thousands in LGBT communities across Africa with HIV testing and treatment. We’ve also established an initiative called Young Survivors to link all adolescents living with HIV to medical care in five major cities.
I am heartened by the amazing work of so many agencies and institutions around the world, some featured in these pages, and the governments, grant makers and individuals that support them to defeat AIDS. I’m truly hopeful that 2030 is a target we can achieve. I’d give anything to be an old man in an AIDS-free world!
Please help us change the course of history by joining the fight. Please donate to www.ejaf.org/london