A newly-launched International AIDS Society – Lancet Commission seeks to change the global approach to controlling HIV, which killed 940,000 people worldwide in 2017. The Commission will be co-chaired by Dr. Chris Beyrer, Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health and Human Rights. As part of its launch, the Society issued a report on July 19, “Advancing Global Health and Strengthening the HIV Response in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals: The International AIDS Society—Lancet Commission.” More than 40 authors worldwide contributed to the report, including Bloomberg School faculty members Dr. Mike Klag, dean emeritus and professor, Dr. Stefan Baral, associate professor, Dr. David Dowdy, associate professor, Dr. Brian Weir, assistant scientist, and Dr. Parastu Kasiae, research associate.
The Commission is funded for at least one more year and hopes to focus on policy and implementation.
The report acknowledges that while treatment of AIDS has been successful (nearly 21 million of the 36.7 million people with AIDS receive treatment, according to UNAIDS), prevention efforts are just as imperative but are stalling because international funding is declining.
HIV persists in high-risk, marginalized populations such as gay and bisexual men, transgender people, people who inject drugs, sex workers and sex partners of people in those groups. Unfortunately, the report finds that people in these groups are least likely to seek out health centers that provide AIDS services. In its report, the Commission urges that health centers offering screening for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and pregnancy also offer HIV screening. Sites that offer clean needle exchange programs for drug users could also provide AIDS services.
The Commission agrees that although tremendous strides have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, it’s too early to declare victory. A more pro-active approach must be taken, focusing on prevention as much as treatment.