As the year draws to a close, there is much to celebrate.
There are more people than ever before on lifesaving medication -- 13 million people who would have been dead (and millions more infected) were it not for access to two pills a day. That's 12,700,000 more people on treatment today than just 12 years ago. That's worthy of a round of applause. New infections are on the decline -- the number slashed by 38% in just over ten years. I just punched the air. Treatment is up, infections are down ... so much so that this year, for the first time in the history of AIDS, more people were newly added to treatment, than those newly infected with the virus. Now that deserves a standing ovation.
But ... we're not at the finish line yet.
With increasing progress comes increased jeopardy. The gains to date could so easily roll-back if the world doesn't stay focused -- focused on getting more people on lifesaving medication, focused on greater access to testing, counseling and treatment programs for marginalized people, and focused on ensuring that there's adequate funding to get the job done.
Of course, it's impossible to talk about Africa this year without talking about Ebola. We've seen the devastation caused by this deadly outbreak in West Africa and the ensuing havoc because of inadequate health systems. These are the very same health systems which provide HIV services, TB testing, malaria drugs, and so many other basic, but vital, medical services. Now more than ever, it's crucial that the world invests in strengthening those systems -- it's critical not only to effectively combat the current outbreak, but to ensure the progress in fighting other diseases doesn't falter.
AIDS is not a pandemic that any one entity or organization will end in isolation. Consigning to history a disease which has killed 39 million people -- and one with which 35 million people are living with today -- requires a global effort. Everyone has a role to play. From governments prioritizing investments in health, to NGOs implementing innovative community-based programs, to companies turning profits into donations, to people like you and me simply adding our voice. The end of AIDS is in sight, but it's not a guarantee.
Looking ahead to next year, 2016, 2017, 2020... Let's build on the incredible progress that the world has already achieved. Let's beat this preventable, treatable disease once and for all.