Today is World AIDS Day, an occasion to reflect on how recent scientific breakthroughs have altered the outlook on the future of the pandemic. ‘Working with India, we are embracing smart investments to save more lives.'
Every year on December 1, we commemorate World AIDS Day. It is a day to reflect on lives lost, and lives forever changed, as a result of AIDS. It is also an opportunity to pay tribute to more than 34 million people living with AIDS worldwide. Today, we celebrate those lives saved and improved in India and recommit to the fight against AIDS.
Science is the key
On this World AIDS Day, we emphasise science as the way forward. Recent scientific breakthroughs have altered our outlook on the future of AIDS. Of particular importance is a study showing that antiretroviral treatment reduces the likelihood of transmission of HIV to an uninfected partner by a remarkable 96 per cent. For the first time, with this and other tools, we have a potential path to eliminate this disease from the global landscape. By using our new knowledge, we can implement more effective programmes to provide HIV prevention, treatment, and care to millions of people worldwide, and in communities throughout India.
Significant strides have been made in India and throughout the world. Despite early projections of a rapidly expanding epidemic, India has documented remarkable success in limiting HIV transmission. HIV incidence declined by 50 per cent between 2000 and 2009 as a result of successful evidence-based prevention programmes in high-prevalence districts, supported by important policy shifts, and scale-up of care and treatment services for people already infected.
PEPFAR and India
As part of its dynamic partnership with India, the United States, through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), supports evidence-driven and innovative approaches to support India's National AIDS Control Programme. PEPFAR provides expert technical cooperation to address priority areas linked to HIV prevention and treatment, and health system strengthening. For example, the U.S. has funded numerous demonstration projects that subsequently have been adopted and scaled up by the government of India or the private sector, including evidence-based prevention among most-at-risk-populations, private sector HIV service delivery models, helplines, drop-in centres, group insurance for people living with HIV, and workplace HIV programmes. In recent years, we have collaborated with the government of India to develop and implement national policies on gender, migrants, and children affected by AIDS.
Working with India, we are embracing smart investments to save more lives. Throughout the world, treatment — both to save the lives of those infected, and to prevent infection of others — is a key evidence-based intervention, along with prevention of mother-to-child transmission, HIV counselling and testing and other strategies. In all we do, we are focusing on using our resources as effectively and efficiently as possible to maximise the human impact of our investments and save more lives. President Barack Obama's Global Health Initiative is using health systems built through PEPFAR to address public health challenges in a more integrated and comprehensive way.
Despite challenging economic times, the U.S. remains committed to its leadership role in the global AIDS response. Meeting the challenge of this disease will require commitment from all parties — including the governments of affected countries, donor governments, civil society, faith-based organisations, and the private sector.
Today, we recognise how far we have come in turning the tide against HIV, while acknowledging the lengths we still must travel. On this World AIDS Day, we stand together with India. With science as the road map, let us renew our efforts to reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation.
(The writer is the Ambassador and Chargé d'Affaires ad interim, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi.)