December 20, 2016
2016 is fast winding down and for many people the thought is: this year can’t be over quickly enough. It’s been a wild one. Human rights and health care seem more imperiled than ever as a result of political changes in many parts of the world, including here in the US where the core AVAC team is located.
But there’s one thing about 2016 that AVAC and our allies can’t and won’t say goodbye to at midnight on December 31—2016 was the year that the world embraced a comprehensive view of HIV prevention. It was the year that many different stakeholders embraced the reality that the end of epidemic levels of HIV depends on scaling up treatment for people living with HIV and prevention for HIV-negative people.
This was an essential breakthrough that really began, at the global level, with the UNAIDS Prevention Gap report released in advance of the International AIDS Conference in Durban; the special prevention issue of Lancet HIV launched at Durban; and continued with thematic activities and publications focused on the World AIDS Day theme, “Hands Up for HIV Prevention”.
After several years of rhetoric suggesting that the epidemic could be turned around solely by scaling up antiretrovirals for people living with HIV, this broad focus was a refreshing dose of reality.
Beginning to end the HIV epidemic is well within our reach, and it is heavily dependent on providing every person living with HIV antiretrovirals when he or she wants them, in programs that support choice and adherence and lead to durable virologic suppression.
In 2016, the conversation changed. Countries, funders and civil society are increasingly in agreement: Real progress also depends on scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision; oral PrEP for people and places with high incidence; harm reduction programs for the world’s exploding epidemics driven by drug use; comprehensive structural, social and biomedical offerings for all populations at risk; male and female condoms; and sustained commitments to R&D for vaccines, microbicides and PrEP—and much more.
We’re as ready as anyone to shut the book on the worst moments of 2016. But 2016 did give us a gift that we’re taking with us—printing it on a banner, a placard, a card to place above our desks: Prevention matters, progress is possible, people working together for their rights and lives will triumph over time.
On behalf of the whole AVAC team, warm wishes for joyful, restful restorative holidays and a peaceful New Year.