Staggering Gains in the Fight Against AIDS

01/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Michel D. Kazatchkine UN Secretary General‘s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

As I reflect on World AIDS Day, I am struck by the great achievements made in global health in just the past six years. In financial terms, the change has been staggering. AIDS spending went from about $600 million in 2000 to $10 billion last year. Tuberculosis spending was $800 million, now it is more than $1 billion annually. Malaria, for example, was funded at a level of about $300 million per year in 2000; now the world's malaria spending is approximately $1.5 billion annually. This dramatic increase in funding points to a paradigm shift. Instead of thinking about health care spending as an expenditure, the political world has come to realize that it is an investment.

The return on these investments has been dramatic health improvements. Coinciding with World AIDS Day, the Global Fund announced its latest treatment numbers. Since our work began just six years ago, programs we support have treated two million people around the world with antiretroviral medicines. These programs have also delivered 62 million HIV counseling and testing sessions, and 3.2 million AIDS orphans and vulnerable children have been provided with basic care and support. The result is that people no longer need to die from these diseases and fewer people get infected. In Thailand, for example, there has been a 33% decline in HIV prevalence among youth from 2004 to 2008. In parts of East Africa, deaths from malaria have plunged by 50% - 80% in just the past two years.

But while news of progress on World AIDS Day is good, there is still a long way to go. Demand still overrides resources. For every two people who begin taking medicine for AIDS, five people are newly infected. The world's investment in health care for all of our fellow global citizens -- not just the lucky few who happen to fall within particular borders -- is critical to the health, safety and prosperity of our global community.

In a world where inequality continues to grow, the recent gains in health form a bridge between the rich and the poor. We need to strengthen this bridge. We are beginning to make progress in the decade-long fight against these diseases. We need to sustain them through continued investment.