How to help health workers end AIDS
HIV/AIDS

How to help health workers end AIDS

Join

Join the fight against extreme poverty

When we first met in Kampala and started campaigning together against AIDS, around 4,500 people were dying of the disease each day. It was horrifying, and often felt hopeless.

That was nearly two decades ago. Today, that number has been more than halved, thanks to a historic partnership between activists, the private sector and governments that has brought down drug prices and funded health workers to reach the most marginalized.

Looking ahead, by 2023, AIDS deaths could be halved again, down to under 1,100 each day, according to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. If we successfully hold the global funding partnership accountable for this immense rate of reduction, and continue it, we absolutely can achieve a world without anyone dying from AIDS by 2030.

Isn’t that an amazing opportunity? We can achieve this incredible outcome — and we can build on partnerships to deliver even more for people and planet.

We have a choice before us: Between 2020 and 2030 we risk facing a decade of disaster if we isolate, separate, divide. Instead, let’s make it a decade of delivery and meaningful action, by working together as one.

Tackling “AIDS-apathy”

But first, we must overcome the threat of AIDS-apathy. At a recent event in Berlin, called “World Without AIDS,” a German celebrity privately admitted that many of his friends thought AIDS was no longer a “cool” thing to campaign against. He argued that other issues — such as climate change or human rights — seemed more important.

This view is widespread. Of course all these issues are important and we must work on them all, as one human family. That is why the Sustainable Development Goals are so important. They unify all our concerns and give us shared financing targets to track. Indeed we must find ways to ensure those who are passionate to avoid the mass deaths predicted by climate change are equally passionate about the current mass deaths from killers like AIDS, TB and malaria.

If we allow ourselves to lose interest in beating killers like HIV/AIDS, as if they are just throwaway fast-fashion items, then we will not just fail to end them, but they will make a comeback and start killing as many as they did before. We can’t allow that. We must find the humanity, the moral imagination, the creativity to ensure all these justice, equality and sustainability issues are always in fashion, together, and at the same time.

The health security argument

If arguments about “justice and equality” don’t overcome the apathy of some of our fellow citizens and our leaders, what about arguments of health security of our families and communities?

Communicable diseases are humanity’s most ancient killers. They have evolved alongside us and now prey upon the global health system at its weakest links. In the poorest countries, diseases wage constant war on both individual immune systems and global health systems. And as we have seen with AIDS, they can then spread to go global. So there is a strong health security argument for investing far more in the world’s frontline health systems, especially in nurses and doctors

This argument should be a simple one. Today over 14,000 children under 5 will die, most of them from preventable or treatable diseases and mainly in the poorest regions of our world. Imagine if aliens came and killed more than 14,000 kids today. And threatened to do the same tomorrow and every day. We would mount a spectacular defense.

We have the funds and tech to beat preventable and treatable diseases. We must not allow a lack of moral imagination to stop us from doing so.

Fighting for health in 2020

2020 is the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, which makes it a great year to boost financing for frontline health heroes, who are fighting for the health security of us all. We need an additional 9 million nurses globally by 2030 if we are to beat back these killers and contain newer enemies such as non-communicable diseases and help those suffering with mental health conditions.

Many of us who have been living with HIV/AIDS for 20 years now may suffer from these chronic diseases and need healthcare for more than just our AIDS condition. The good news is that in 2020, there are key summits that can help secure funding and support for this goal.

The issues of health, gender equality and sustainability must be presented not as either-or options, but as part of the same fight.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will have a replenishment in London in June. Countries should step up with more funding. And we call on climate activists to also support this call for immunization and help save lives.

Then there is a gender summit in July in Paris, where the issues of women’s access to healthcare will be central. There is the climate change summit in Glasgow in November, where the importance of helping the poorest fight back against extreme poverty and climate change must be addressed financially.

At each of these moments, the issues of health, gender equality and sustainability must be presented not as either-or options, but as part of the same fight. We are one human family, sharing one planet. The young woman threatened by HIV is also threatened by gender-based violence, by unequal access to quality education, by corruption in local and global governance, by a lack of human rights or by leaders and corporations who poison her environment. Her lived reality is not to be broken up and marketed separately for the convenience of far-away campaigners or policymakers.

We know that in the lowest income countries, a basic package of “human capital” investments to empower her cost just $350 per person per year. Let’s work together to find those funds and follow that money down to her local community to ensure it really supports her. Our investment in her future will decide the fate of us all.

We have a choice before us: Between 2020 and 2030 we risk facing a decade of disaster if we isolate, separate, divide. Instead, let’s make it a decade of delivery and meaningful action, by working together as one.

Join the Conversation

Comment Guidelines

Related Articles