World AIDS Day: what’s next in the fight?

A World at School

In the past ten years, what has been achieved in the fight against HIV/AIDS is nothing short of revolutionary.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria began with the idea that a “war chest” of funding was necessary to fight these three killers. Today, programmes supported by the Global Fund in more than 140 countries, mean that 7.3 million people are getting the drugs they need so that AIDS is not a death sentence.

These resources and efforts combined with country leadership and bilateral donors making serious contributions particularly PEPFAR in the United States – have changed the face of global health and the lives of millions of families forever. We now speak easily about the possibility of an AIDS-free generation.

So we know what’s possible.

And yet, in the most vulnerable communities these gains can be fragile. To continue to make progress in prevention and treatment, investments in two critical areas – the fight against tuberculosis (TB) and the fight for at least a basic education for all children – must be scaled-up.

We must invest more in action on TB. Despite being preventable and curable, it kills 1.4 million people every year and is the leading cause of death for people with HIV.

Failure to integrate TB and HIV programs creates barriers to TB diagnosis and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. Although progress has been made, without a stronger commitment to reducing the burden of TB among people living with HIV, and investments in better drugs, diagnostics and a vaccine we will continue lose lives unnecessarily.

Agencies including the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank need to work harder to implement World Health Organization recommendations on TB

We must invest more in getting all children everywhere – particularly girls – access to an education. The risk of HIV/AIDS infection drops by 50% for young people, particularly girls, who stay in school and complete a basic education.

A good basic education ranks among the most effective – and cost-effective – means of HIV/AIDS prevention. It is estimated that at least seven million cases of HIV/AIDS could be avoided by the achievement of Education for All. Yet 58 million children remain out of school and financing for basic education from the same donors who scaled up their fight against AIDS is on the decline in those countries with the biggest challenges – including a high burden of TB and HIV.

Scaling up more seriously and more rapidly in these two areas is the next phase of the fight against HIV/AIDS. It means tackling tough research and development challenges in TB and solving significant funding apathy and other complex challenges in education.

If the fight against HIV/AIDS has taught us anything, it’s that we are up to that challenge. If the fight against HIV/AIDS has taught us one other thing it’s that nothing changes without pressure. HIV/AIDS and education activists must join forces to create a strong collective voice to tackle these and other barriers to an AIDS-free generation.

Start here …

Add your voice now to the to create pressure to eliminate barriers to getting all children in school. Sign the #UpForSchool Petition.

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