1st December 2014 Brasilia, Brazil

Time to reflect

Red Ribbon
Today I wore the red ribbon to mark the World AIDS Day – Credits: Renato Pattini/British Embassy

Today is World AIDS Day. It is a great opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the last 20 years. The devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a reminder of what it was like when AIDS started. Stigma, misunderstanding and discrimination were widespread. People were scared and afraid to seek help. There were no medicines and those infected had little hope.

Thanks to global solidarity and social activism, the International Community has been able to transform the situation. I have been lucky enough to play a small part in this success story. One of the highlights of my career to date was working for the President of the General Assembly in 2010-11 as his senior advisor for Health issues. That meant I was responsible for organising and delivering an outcome from the 2011 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

The High Level Meeting brought together Presidents, Prime Ministers,Health Workers, Scientists, civil society and individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS. Organizing a meeting on this scale was a challenge, but an even bigger challenge was reaching agreement on how to ramp up the global effort. Working alongside a team from Australia,  Botswana and UNAIDS after many late nights and tense negotiations we were able to persuade all 193 members of the United Nations to sign up to a Political Declaration. The Political Declaration contained a set of ambitious targets to halt and reverse the spread of HIV AIDS by the end of 2015. This included the total elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

With just a year to go to the deadline agreed in 2011, the international community has made real progress. Over a million less people each year are infected by HIV than 10 year ago. Less children are dying than previously and more people have access to antiviral medicines than ever before. The World is on track to providing antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people by the end of next year and completely eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV in just a few years. Both Brazil and the UK have played an important part in making this happen – and we have been discussing with the Brazilian Ministry of Health (FIOCRUZ) how the UK and Brazil can further collaborate on global health issues.

But progress remains uneven. Two out of three children who need treatment do not get it. Death rates among adolescents are increasing. And we are falling short of meeting targets set in 2011such as reducing sexual transmission by 50 per cent and halving HIV transmission among people who inject drugs. Less than half of the 28.6 million people eligible for HIV treatment are receiving it.

To achieve the goal of ending AIDS we need ensure there is help for everybody infected in particular the most vulnerable whose rights are denied. These include young people, who are under-served by health systems; women and girls facing abuse; people who inject drugs, sex workers and LGBT communities.

World AIDS Day 2014 is a day to remember the work that has been done but also to redouble our efforts and ensure we break the epidemic for good.

And as we struggle to combat Ebola, the fight against AIDS also serves as an example for what can be done if the will is there to break through political gridlock, integrate health care and mobilize the public and private sector and civil society to help deliver innovation and change.

About wasimmir

Wasim Mir joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1998 and has spent most of his career focussing on multilateral issues and institutional reform. He has worked with the United…

Wasim Mir joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1998 and has spent most of his career focussing on multilateral issues and institutional reform. He has worked with the United Nations and the European Union before coming to Brazil to assume the position of Deputy Head of Mission. Wasim studied economics at the London School of Economics and subsequently obtained a Master’s Degree in Law from the University of Manchester.

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