On the 1st December each year the world pauses, however briefly, to remember that a disease which was first discovered 30 years ago casts a huge shadow across the globe. Today 34 million people around the world are living with HIV.
However, in recent years there has been an increasing optimism that the fight against HIV/AIDS is winnable, and soon. Indeed, in a recent speech Hillary Clinton suggested that we have “a historic opportunity to finish the fight.”
Advances in preventing mothers passing HIV onto children during childbirth, increased levels of male cirumcision and earlier use of anti-retroviral drugs have shown potential to make real inroads into the pandemic.
The big problem – as ever – is money. One of the biggest funders of work in the area is the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria but this is financed by voluntary contributions from individual nations and has been forced to announce no new grants can be made before 2014. Other funding sources have also diminished.
Experts warn that if this interferes with treatment regimes that people with the virus currently adhere to then some strains of HIV could develop resistance to treatment, not only slowing progress but meaning a significant backwards step.
Even in these hard times there’s clearly a case for pressuring politicians to ensure essential spending requirements are met on programs that will help these new advances take effect.