AIDS has been with us, officially, for 30 years, since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first cases. This unhappy anniversary is perhaps as good a time as any to spell out why the global response to AIDS is in need of serious adjustment.
Annual spending on AIDS worldwide has risen to $15.9 billion. The bulk of this money goes to the treatment and care of indigent people who are HIV-positive. Without question, the investment in anti-retroviral therapy, or ART, has saved lives. Today, the treatment is provided to about 36 percent of those in the developing world who qualify for it under World Health Organization guidelines.
United Nations member states have pledged to raise that to almost 100 percent. Universal treatment has become the principal mission of many AIDS organizations around the world; governments and philanthropies have followed their lead.
The idea of treating everyone who has the human immunodeficiency virus, regardless of ability to pay, is laudable. The problem is, the laudable runs the risk of crowding out both the practical and the doable. As programs for treatment have grown, those focused on prevention have languished or gotten short-shrift.
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