Early June, 2011 marked the 30th anniversary of our global community’s struggle with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. After three decades, our efforts to overcome this disease have been a simultaneous demonstration of scientific progress and total failure. While we have made huge strides towards understanding the virus and discovering treatment options, we are yet to find a cure, eliminate stigma, or implement effective prevention plans for affected populations.
Thus, it was with mixed opinions and conflicting views of optimism and realism that the UN General Assembly convened in New York for a special session on the topic of HIV/AIDS – 10 years since the last such assembly. Leaders and representatives from a variety of states gathered to learn, discuss and eventually “adopt a declaration which will guide country responses to HIV over the next five years” (UN). With the deadline for the UN’s Millennium Development Goal regarding HIV/AIDS response approaching quickly--to have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015--this meeting focused on re-emphasizing the global treatment and prevention movement.
The meeting couldn’t have come at a better time. Although support and interest in combating the disease has waned in past years, according to HIV policy advisor Sharonann Lynch, the announcement that treating people living with HIV earlier could reduce HIV transmission by up to 96 percent has "reignited the HIV/AIDS field [and] there’s hope out there” (AllAfrica). Perhaps in response to this feeling of hope, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon set forth a very bold declaration, saying “that is our goal – zero new infections, zero stigma and zero Aids-related deaths" by 2020 (Guardian Development Network).
While it’s certainly admirable that the UN is once again making a commitment to eradicate this devastating epidemic, many are skeptical about the reality of this lofty goal. For example, though it was decided that this next push will require an additional $6 billion, there were no specific rulings on where that funding should come from.