Monday 20 June 2016

AIDS 2016: A push for prevention

Treatment Action Campaign activists marching at the 2000 Aids conference in Durban
LIZ MCGREGOR writes: AIDS 2016 kicks off in Durban in four weeks' time with an ambitious goal: to achieve for HIV prevention what AIDS 2000 achieved for treatment in the same city 16 years ago.

It was a time of crippling AIDS denialism in South Africa. Anti-retroviral treatment was available but prohibitively expensive. Few in the developing world, where the epidemic was at its most vicious, could afford it.

AIDS 2000 launched a global campaign to bring treatment to all those who needed it, with civil society groupings such as the Treatment Action Campaign at the forefront.

Former South African President, Nelson Mandela, summed up its purpose in his closing address: "This is....a gathering of human beings concerned about turning around one of the greatest threats humankind has faced..."

In 2016,  nearly 16million people worldwide are on treatment. South Africa has the biggest HIV programme in the world.

Effective methods of prevention and treatment have been developed but they are not reaching enough people. UNAIDS estimates that there will be a 10-fold increase in new HIV infections and eight times as many AIDS-related deaths by 2030 unless action is taken now to address and prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable.

AIDS 2016 runs from July 18 to 22. The theme is "Access Rights Now".