World AIDS Day 2012: Looking to the Future, Learning From the Past


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Although I have committed much of my career to the global fight against HIV and AIDS, this year's World AIDS Day is a special one for me in two ways. First, there's the remarkable news from UNAIDS that more than 8 million people globally are now on treatment, and 25 countries have achieved more than a 50 percent decline in HIV prevalence. With this progress, I am more optimistic than ever about our ability to end AIDS.

As the US government’s new blueprint for an AIDS-free generation demonstrates, today we have the science, the knowledge, the experience, and the tools to fight the epidemic. I was particularly happy to see that the blueprint included multi-year, sustainability strategies and that it stressed the need to support country leadership. With that leadership, and with a long-term plan owned by countries, these efforts can succeed.

Second, on my first World AIDS Day as World Bank president, I’m also reflecting on how we can apply the lessons of the AIDS movement to the broader fight against global poverty. The AIDS movement has shown us the critical importance of investing in evidence-based programs and building systems for effective service delivery.

The AIDS movement illustrated the power of information and transparency to educate, reduce stigma, and empower citizens to take action. This approach has yielded remarkable results in countries like India, where the World Bank has worked with the National AIDS Control Program to achieve 80 percent coverage of HIV services in high-risk populations, stronger health systems, and avert an estimated 3 million new infections. Two new studies demonstrate that programs targeting high-risk groups are cost-effective and can significantly curb the spread of HIV.

The AIDS movement also has shown us the value of a strong partnership between governments and civil society groups who can advocate, innovate, and reach the most marginalized and vulnerable people in society. And it has shown us that sustained progress requires a multi-sectoral, multi-pronged approach that focuses not only on care for those affected, but also on prevention.

All of these lessons appear repeatedly in the thousands of messages and ideas we have received from people around the world in response to our #whatwillittake to end poverty campaign.

On this World AIDS Day, the goal of ending AIDS is within our reach. Just think back to the beginning of AIDS, when we first heard reports of a mysterious illness that was killing people. I was a senior in college, and I remember well the fear because of the great unknowns. Now, 30 years later, after so many lives have been lost, we know so much, and we also know that we must do all we can to end AIDS.

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Roverto (Manila , Philippines)
December 16, 2012

This is very good news about stopping the AIDS pandemic and suffering of so many poor victims. Congratulation to World Bank for learning to scale up lessons to fight poverty!

To follow on Maria's comments: pandemics occur again and again throughout human history. Black death. Plague. In 1918-1919 the "Spanish" flu pandemic killed 50 million people in 2 years, then now this AIDS pandemic. Next year, or more surely in next 5 years, another one or more pandemics start. Maria, you are right that repeating is a huge danger.

In future, with much bigger world population and very poor public health in crowded areas, pandemics like AIDS will start more frequently than before when population was much smaller.

But planet Earth cannot support more and more people: 7 billion now, 4 times more than only 120 years ago, with more CO2 emissions because more people need energy and food. Pandemic diseases will quickly reduce the population. This is reason why its not needed to prevent pandemics because climate change will be slowed down with smaller human population.

After several repeated pandemics world will have more equilibrium. This will help realize World Bank objective to avoid 4 degrees global warming so prevention of repeated pandemics can be considered as counter-productive in this light. Its better not to stop pandemics.

Maria Suzuki
November 30, 2012

Dr Kim, with all respect, the 3 lessons you highlight are certainly valuable, but....

We have the science and the resources to prevent the next AIDS. This would save millions of lives, much misery, damage to family, and tens of billions of dollars. We are spending huge amount of money on AIDS, with possibly no end in sight, money that could be spent on productive "last mile" investment to reduce poverty. Why is World Bank doing nothing to prevent the next AIDS? Maybe it's not true, but you do not mention any concern about the imperative of preventing future pandemics.

Is it not the main lesson, that AIDS should have been prevented from becoming a local epidemic? The pandemic would not have deveoped. Imagine the savings in life, money and size of bureaucracies!

Are World Bank health project staff reading British Lancet magazine this week about global pandemic threat from zoonosis? Is the World Bank investing in detection and efficient control of animal diseases? AIDS was first an animal diseases. This coul be the 2nd most important lesson.

Government public health authorities had a Delivary Failure in letting AIDS spread in the first place, because they have long ignored the source of the problem and instead only focus on symptoms, too late. Will health authorties act sooner next time? Is there thinking at the World Bank on what it would take to do that?

An ounce of prevention for the future, please.

Turid Kongsvik
December 01, 2012

Keep up the good work, Mr President. Turid