The global AIDS epidemic is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. Borrowing the words of Pangaea's partner, the MSM Global Forum on HIV & AIDS which held a packed meeting in the UN in New York yesterday, AIDS is "unfinished business".
We have made huge progress since 2001, when the UN General Assembly held its first Special Session on AIDS. Billions of dollars invested, an array of new life saving treatments developed, 16 million people now on treatment, and medications to prevent infections now being rolled out around the world.
But the last fifteen years have witnessed a lack of meaningful progress in HIV prevention. The number of new infections globally has barely budged since 2008.
Now, we run the very real risk of running out of steam, losing the political momentum, intellectual drive, and righteous passion that has gotten us so far. This, sadly, is clearly reflected in the most recent projection of needed investments calculated by the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS. Based on untested assumptions, it proposes reducing the total need of new funding by 2020 by 3.8 billion dollars to 26.2 billion, and that, after 2020, investments can be reduced significantly further.
But perhaps the most grievous gap is the absence of any reference to the critically needed investment for innovation in technology and health service delivery.
It was to address this gap, that Pangaea's CEO Ben Plumley moderated a panel on Innovation at the Civil Society Hearing of the UN General Assembly High Level Session on AIDS today. He emphasized that:
"AIDS will not end in 2020: we need to invest now in new technologies in HIV prevention, testing and treatment, as well as creative new ways to deliver urgently needed health services - particularly for communities most affected by HIV, including girls and women, men who have sex with men, injection drug users and sex workers. The costs of this investment are known to us and have been clearly set out in reports like the UNAIDS Lancet Commission.
"So we are calling on the UN Member States as they negotiate their final political declaration, to commit to a major long term campaign of research and development - we aren't expecting governments to fund this alone: the private sector and foundations need to be part of this multi-disciplinary campaign, engaging affected communities right from the start, so that humanity's most inspired creativity can identify and deliver innovations in prevention, testing and treatment to the people who need them most around the world."