By Prakash Tyagi* (India), International HIV/AIDS Alliance Key Correspondent
The International AIDS Conference is returning to the U.S. after 22 years. Undoubtedly, the interest levels will be high and the expectations will be huge for about 20,000 people attending the conference, and for the rest of the world!
Since AIDS 2010 in Vienna, a number of important developments have taken place. Close to three decades into the pandemic, there are signs of rolling back the huge toll of HIV. Prevention prospects have shown the glimmer of hope with the new discoveries such as the microbicide gel. Universal coverage of Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) has improved significantly, including in a number of low- and middle-income countries. On the flipside, the funding scene has not been very encouraging. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UNAIDS have struggled to replenish its resources, leaving a considerable funding gap.
Therefore, the event has many important aspects to discuss, and many questions to be answered.
The Conference will be important for three main aspects in my view. Firstly, the U.S. are the hub of scientific and medical research on the virus. Since 1987 or so, unparalleled work on prevention and management science of HIV has taken place in the country. While some of this work has been presented and shared in the past conferences, AIDS 2012 certainly provides a greater opportunity and platform to showcase the progress made.
Secondly, the funding situation remains critical. The Global Fund had to cancel its most recent round of funding due to shortage of resources. The WHO in its reports has said that improvement has been made in a number of countries on universal access and coverage of ART, but the improved trends have to sustain and more progress is still needed in many areas. There is a lot of apprehension on the availability of funds, and the global community will look forward to the AIDS 2012 as a forum with answers to questions related to future of funding.
Thirdly, the Conference is going to be crucial in terms of consolidating global North and global South solidarity in the global response towards HIV. In Washington D.C. people living with HIV, practitioners and scientists will have opportunities to share and to renew their synergies. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had once quoted that the global AIDS epidemic is an unprecedented crisis and requires an unprecedented response in the form of solidarity across the world, between healthy and sick, between rich and poor. I truly hope that this solidarity revitalizes and strengthens in Washington, D.C.
There is always a threat of under-achieving when the expectations are high and the agenda is comprehensively large. In the context of HIV, it is always going to be the case. However, prioritizing actions helps, and I hope global community looks into key priorities during the week in Washington, D.C.
* Prakash Tyagi is a young physician and public health professional. He leads Gravis in India.