Will we achieve an AIDS-free generation?

As the International AIDS Conference takes place in Washington, D.C., groups fighting for an end to AIDS highlight a funding slump that puts the goal at risk.

By Holly Frew, World Vision U.S.
Published July 23, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

This week, the International AIDS Conference is taking place in Washington, D.C.

Described as the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV — as well as policymakers, persons living with HIV, and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic — this group of 20,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries annually come together in pursuit of a shared goal: zero new HIV infections and an AIDS-free generation.

End of AIDS within reach

The last International AIDS Conference held in the United States took place in 1990. Since then, significant advances in the fight against HIV and AIDS have brought the end of the AIDS crisis within reach. 

According to a recent United Nations report, new HIV infections have been reduced by 21 percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005.

However, U.S. funding is at its lowest levels since 2007. Adam Taylor, World Vision’s vice president for advocacy, says this puts progress at risk.

Funding slump threatens progress

To truly “turn the tide” on the HIV epidemic, countries must stay on course with their funding commitments and step up support for orphans and vulnerable children, says Taylor.

The United States is significantly behind its five-year funding commitment since the 2008 reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

World Vision advocates for the United States to provide PEPFAR with at least $4.6 billion in fiscal year 2013, as well as $1.65 billion for the Global Fund to Fight HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to meet the $4 billion pledge.

In addition to life-saving investments in the Global Fund, PEPFAR has been one of the most successful initiatives in turning the tide of the HIV epidemic, providing:

>> Life-saving treatment to almost 4 million men, women, and children
>> Care and support to more than 4 million children left orphaned and vulnerable by HIV and AIDS
>> Access to HIV counseling and testing to nearly 10 million pregnant women

Euphemia is HIV-positive, but her daughter, Medo, is not. Medo was safely delivered without contracting HIV because Euphemia received services from World Vision to prevent mother-to-child transmission. (Photo: Collins Kaumba/World Vision)“The U.S. government has been instrumental in reversing the global impact of HIV and AIDS, and must continue to fight until we reach zero by staying on course with funding commitments and developing an actionable strategy for reaching an AIDS-free generation,” says Taylor.

Focus on children needed

World Vision is also advocating for greater focus on eliminating new infections in children and providing access to treatment.

In spite of significant progress, orphans and vulnerable children still lack access to treatment and prevention services they need. According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 1.3 million children need HIV treatment now, but only 28 percent receive it, and 800 HIV-positive children die each day due to lack of access to treatment and care.

“Children still lag far behind adults in access to HIV prevention and treatment, while many mothers face pregnancy and childbearing without access to ways for protecting their babies from HIV,” says Rev. Christo Greyling, World Vision’s director for HIV and infectious diseases. “Closing that gap would be a huge step toward an AIDS-free generation.”

World Vision and the AIDS fight

World Vision is on the frontlines of the fight against HIV and AIDS, working in public-private partnerships and with faith leaders of all religions to promote HIV prevention and care for orphans and vulnerable children and people living with AIDS.

Beginning its HIV and AIDS response in 1990 in hard-hit Rakai, Uganda, and in Romania, the organization expanded its efforts globally over a decade ago through its Hope Initiative, reaching vulnerable communities and households through education, prevention, and home-based care for orphans and the chronically ill.

Each year, World Vision reaches 1 million orphans and children vulnerable to the effects of AIDS. Through the Channels of Hope program, the agency has worked with more than 350,000 faith leaders to teach them about HIV, eradicate stigma, and encourage their engagement to serve their communities and countries.

How you can help

Thank God for the progress made in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Pray that countries would have political will to continue their contribution to the AIDS fight.

Speak out. Ask your members of Congress to support the International Affairs budget. This part of the federal budget provides critical assistance to combat global HIV and AIDS and other life-threatening diseases.

Make a one-time donation to help provide HIV and AIDS care. Your gift today will triple in impact to help care for children and families whose lives have been impacted by HIV and AIDS in countries like Haiti, Vietnam, and Uganda.

Build AIDS Caregiver Kits. Your church group can assemble Caregiver Kits, which contain critical healthcare items like soap, washcloths, and latex gloves. These kits are used by our volunteer AIDS caregivers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.