"Making AIDS history," this year's Capitol Hill conference organized by amfAR the Foundation for AIDS research, is of particular significance as the world marks the 30th anniversary of AIDS but also amfAR's 25th anniversary.
As we look back on what we have accomplished in this fight over the last decade, especially since the creation of the Global Fund and PEPFAR, the progress has been truly remarkable. 10 years ago many were skeptical that treatment could or should be provided in the developing world and had a long list of arguments against providing treatment. They said that making treatment available would be too expensive; that patients would not be able to adhere to treatment leading to drug resistance; that the necessary infrastructure was lacking and could not be built. In short: it could not be done and would not be worth it.
In the last 10 years, every one of these arguments has been proven wrong!
In many places, we are building health systems as we roll out AIDS treatment and prevention. High rates of compliance with treatment have been reported in sub-Saharan Africa. And the costs of delivering treatment have fallen to around $500 per person per year, of which just $100 is the cost of the medication
In the last 10 years, nearly 7 million people have gained access to treatment in the developing world. For evidence of the huge scale up in treatment, look no further than the extraordinary achievement of some countries, such as South Africa, where at least a million people now have access to ARV's, or Kenya and Malawi, with 350,000 on treatment. This was simply unimaginable less than 10 years ago. These countries are good examples of collaboration between PEPFAR and the Global Fund.
As the number of people receiving treatment increased 13-fold between 2004 and 2009, the number of global AIDS deaths declined by 20 percent. However, about 10 million people in need of treatment in low- and middle-income countries are still not receiving it.
We are also making progress in prevention. Global incidence has fallen 20 percent in 10 years. More than half of pregnant women are receiving antiretroviral prophylaxis to prevent transmission to their children, compared to only 10 percent in 2004.
All of this progress is an extraordinary demonstration of feasibility. It shows that we can bring AIDS prevention and treatment to scale. We can have impact. By working together, we can actually translate a vision into reality.
If we look at what has been accomplished already and factor in a number of things, including the advances in science, we are beginning to see a roadmap not only for realizing universal access, but for "making AIDS history".
And let us not forget that -- in addition to saving lives -- we have a strong case to make that investments in AIDS are the right thing to do from an economic perspective. Less than 10 years ago the idea of 7 million people on treatment seemed like a utopian dream, and in 2011 it is a reality. In a sense we have already made history and we can do it again.