Thursday, September 26, 2013

Good health news -- progress on HIV/AIDS

It could be said that when it comes to health news we tend to accentuate the negative here on MT, so we were happy to see this story.  In 2000 the 189 member states of the United Nations, joined by 23 international organizations, established eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG), to be met by 2015. We've pulled a succinct list of these goals from Wikipedia:
  1. Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieving universal primary education
  3. Promoting gender equality and empowering women
  4. Reducing child mortality rates
  5. Improving maternal health
  6. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensuring environmental sustainability
  8. Developing a global partnership for development[1]
There has been disagreement over the goals and how to attain them since they were established.  It was likely, not surprisingly, that the countries furthest away from the goals were least likely to meet them, for example.  And there is currently disagreement over whether progress on some of the goals has had anything to do with the effort -- the first goal, e.g., reducing the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day by half, has been met, but economic development in China is responsible for much of that.  And extreme poverty is nowhere near being eliminated; there are still over 1 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day (one source for this figure is the Earth Institute at Columbia).

The Guardian has an excellent piece on this, including an interactive display of progress toward attainment of the MGDs as measured by 60 indicators, by nation.  They ask what progress has been made, and what can setting global goals achieve anyway?  Further, what should happen after 2015? 

However you feel about the whole endeavor, whether or not the goals were challenging enough or what kind of progress has been made, the UN reported the other day on the MGDs, and it is undeniably true that the world is close to reaching targets on HIV/AIDS. The UN says that the spread of HIV/AIDS has been halted and even reversed.  The report cites 'dramatic' progress -- deaths and new infections are down and the number of people on antiretrovirals worldwide is up. 
New HIV infections among adults and children were estimated at 2.3 million in 2012, a 33% reduction since 2001. New HIV infections among children have been reduced to 260 000 in 2012, a reduction of 52% since 2001. AIDS-related deaths have also dropped by 30% since the peak in 2005 as access to antiretroviral treatment expands.
By the end of 2012, some 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries were accessing antiretroviral therapy, an increase of nearly 20% in just one year. In 2011, UN Member States agreed to a 2015 target of reaching 15 million people with HIV treatment. However, as countries scaled up their treatment coverage and as new evidence emerged showing the HIV prevention benefits of antiretroviral therapy, the World Health Organization set new HIV treatment guidelines, expanding the total number of people estimated to be in need of treatment by more than 10 million.
Yes, 2.3 new infections is still significant, just as the number of people in extreme poverty is still significant, and meeting the 2015 goals shouldn't allow the world to lose sight of that.  But a 33% reduction in HIV infections is also significant. We hope that this becomes a long-term trend.

Big goals are noble goals, and the challenge is to put resources where the rubber meets the road, and not to have too much gobbled up by bureaucrats, politicians, profiteers, and yes, professors before it ever reaches its intended end.  The MGD report suggests that at least to some extent, this is happening.


Anonymous said...

Those eight goals are not consistent with what the central bankers decided, when they met together. Reckless money printing

1. Increases wealth gap (poverty) and hunger by raising food prices

2. Leads to budget shortfall and firing of primary teachers

3. Increases gender inequality among the most powerful (have you checked how many central bankers are women?)

4. Increases child mortality (lack of food) we need to go down the remaining list?

Anne Buchanan said...

Sure, the last 5 years have made it clear that big bankers don't have the welfare of the people at heart. But our point was to acknowledge the slowing AIDS epidemic, which _is_ good news.