World AIDS Day 2013: Ending AIDS in the Age of Austerity
On World AIDS Day this December 1, 25 years after the first World AIDS Day, we commemorated “an extraordinary year for HIV/AIDS research, with headline-grabbing breakthroughs that stand as undeniable evidence of progress toward a cure,” as amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost and Sharon Stone, amfAR’s global fundraising chairman, wrote in an editorial for CNN. This year, we saw the first child to be cured of HIV and a report of two adult HIV patients no longer showing any signs of the virus after undergoing stem-cell transplants and stopping antiretroviral treatment.
Two thousand thirteen also brought a greater understanding of how to reach the often-marginalized populations that have the highest incidence of HIV, and proof that widespread and early treatment access not only saves lives, but also reduces HIV infection rates. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wrote in a recent article in The Lancet, “Achieving an AIDS-free world is no longer an idealistic aspiration—it is an achievable goal.”
However, 2013 was also a year that brought budget sequestration cuts to the research, prevention, and treatment programs essential to achieving the end of AIDS, and a year in which the U.S. Congress continued to ban federal funding of syringe services programs (SSPs)—despite their evident effectiveness at preventing the spread of HIV among people who inject drugs. As a result of sequestration, the National Institutes of Health will lose $229 million in AIDS research funding in the coming year, and reduced funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) could result in 228,000 fewer people receiving HIV treatment, according to amfAR’s estimates. “It is an irony bordering on tragedy that just as a cure for HIV/AIDS is beginning to seem like a realistic proposition, the belt-tightening measures of the age of austerity could halt our momentum, cripple our progress and dash our hopes for ending AIDS in our lifetime,” write Frost and Stone.
We must demand that the world does not allow this pivotal moment to pass us by. In 2012, more than 2.3 million people were infected with HIV and 1.6 million died of AIDS-related causes. Every moment ending the epidemic is delayed by lack of funding or political will has an unacceptable cost.
World AIDS Day News of Note:
Quinn Tivey, Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson, discusses new infections among young Americans and the importance of SSPs in The Huffington Post.
Everyday Health reports on recent HIV cure breakthroughs.
amfAR Welcomes Clear Signs of Progress on Domestic HIV/AIDS Epidemic.
amfAR’s TREAT Asia teams up with the Thai Red Cross to promote HIV awareness.
Also this December:
Visit www.worldaidscampaign.org for a calendar of World AIDS Day events around the world, or go to POZ.com for a U.S. event near you.
Support amfAR’s efforts to end AIDS—and start your holiday shopping off right—at amfAR’s online store. The store features stylish amfAR-branded gear and accessories, plus items that benefit amfAR from Kiehl’s, Kenneth Cole, and more.
Watch The Battle of amfAR on HBO. The documentary tells the story of how Dr. Mathilde Krim and Elizabeth Taylor joined forces to respond to AIDS with the creation of amfAR in 1985. It chronicles how their leadership gave rise to a research enterprise that would eventually deliver effective treatments for HIV/AIDS and save millions of lives. It also discusses amfAR and Dr. Krim’s ultimate goal: to finish what they started and find a cure. “Most people start with the idea they can’t do anything. I’m just a little guy. I can’t have any effect on public policy. It’s not so. Everybody can do something,” says Dr. Krim.
The 40-minute documentary was made by Oscar- and Emmy-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and executive produced by amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole. It premieres on HBO on Monday, December 2, at 9:00 p.m. EST and will also air on December 5, 8, and 10, as well as on HBO on Demand and HBOGo. Check your local TV listings.
Around the Globe: 25 Years of World AIDS Day