As 2011 comes to an end, it’s time to marvel about what has transpired and to make a commitment to complete the hard work yet to come. The past year has seen a truly unprecedented consensus that it is possible to begin to end the AIDS epidemic using current tools and strategies like earlier antiretroviral treatment, voluntary medical male circumcision and prevention of pediatric infection. At the same time, there have been breakthroughs in the search for additional strategies like pre-exposure prophylaxis, microbicides, an effective AIDS vaccine and cure—interventions that can play a pivotal role in ultimately halting the epidemic.
As US President Obama said on December 1, World AIDS Day, the world is at the “beginning of the end” of the epidemic. As AIDS advocates worldwide know, the next step is ensuring that there is sufficient political will, leadership and financial resources to seize this historic opportunity.
At AVAC, we’ve had the great privilege of working with dedicated, innovative, tireless advocates and activists in many of the countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. Whether these advocates are scientists, policy makers or members of civil society, they share a common guiding principle: follow the science to end the epidemic—now.
Some of the highlights for AVAC from this remarkable year:
- Convened, with our collaborators, over a dozen global advocates’ teleconferences to discuss critical questions related to biomedical HIV prevention research.
- Provided global and local forums for understanding and debating the implications of data on the relationship between hormonal contraceptive use and HIV risk.
- Supported a Ugandan civil society coalition on HIV prevention research that has, over the past year, grown to be a leading voice of critique and collaboration in government responses to the epidemic.
- Mentored—and was mentored by—six 2011 HIV Prevention Research Advocacy Fellows and selected an inspiring group of eight 2012 Fellows who will work with alumni and other stakeholders to execute key strategies across five countries in the coming year.
- Launched “P-values” a new monthly bulletin on AVAC partner activities—and kept in touch with over 4,000 advocates with more than 40 Advocates’ Network updates, ranging from guides for international conferences to real-time explanations of emerging data.
- Worked with our PxROAR cadre of US-based advocates on mobilizing a response to PrEP, microbicides and treatment as prevention in the United States.
- Organized a successful policy advocacy effort, including a Congressional hill briefing, during the months when the US Military HIV Research Program’s funding was imperiled.
- Trained new advocates and research staff as trainers and implementers of the Good Participatory Practice for biomedical HIV prevention research guidelines—which recently received special mention in a new report from the US President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research.
- Provided advocates with key messages and an advocacy tool kit for sustaining the search for an AIDS vaccine.
- Helped to convene the first-ever working group meeting for Project ARM, the African Rectal Microbicides movement, in Addis Ababa in late 2011.
- Launched AVAC Report 2011, “The End?”—a unique synthesis of the advocacy priorities and global needs for beginning to end the epidemic with today’s tools, while sustaining research on and implementation of emerging strategies as a core aspect of an effective response.
- Created the AVAC Playbook 2012 to identify our top priorities for organizational and global activity in the next twelve months—a document we hope our partners will join us in engaging, implementing and updating in the year to come.
All of this work—and much more—depends on our partnerships with many individuals and organizations around the world. We are honored to be your colleagues, collaborators and friends. Events in 2012 could potentially define the success of the AIDS response for many years to come. The cancellation of Round 11 of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in late 2011 was a tremendous setback to the AIDS response at the precise moment when new resources should have been flowing to innovative, game-changing programs. Donors must commit to funding the Fund in 2012, reversing this decision and ensuring that a key funding stream remains in place for countries seeking to turn the tide of their epidemics.
The burgeoning gay and lesbian movement in Africa is being met with yet harsher stigma and repression—one example of the human rights violations that continue to hamper effective AIDS responses worldwide. There is no end to the epidemic without a foundation of human rights protections for all people—and we will continue to work with all our partners to secure these rights.
2012 will also bring the launch of PrEP demonstration projects in the US, a possible FDA decision on whether to add a prevention indication to the TDF/FTC label, additional data from VOICE and FEM-PrEP trials—all of which will create new questions and new imperatives for the field of ARV-based prevention in HIV-negative people.
And, of course, 2012 is the year when hard-hit countries should truly demonstrate their commitments to ending the epidemics by aligning funds—including substantial contributions from national governments—with what works: voluntary medical male circumcision, treatment as prevention, syringe exchange and harm reduction, prevention of pediatric infection, and targeted, rights-based behavior change programs.
There is so much work to be done, and the stakes may never have been so high. AVAC will be working with its partners on the frontlines to achieve progress in each of the areas listed above—and will continue to do so until the possible end to AIDS becomes a true reality.
In these times of fiscal crisis for countries, communities and many families, every dollar counts. AVAC is committed to ensuring that our resources are aligned with core steps needed to end the AIDS epidemic in our lifetime. Our work is sustained by your support as colleagues, collaborators and donors—and we hope that you’ll keep us in mind when planning your year-end giving and last-minute holiday shopping. There are several ways you can support AVAC, all listed on the Take Action section of the AVAC website:
Many thanks in advance for your continued support, and warmest wishes for the New Year,