A letter to partners

Michael Sidibe is the executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAIDS), the main advocating institution for global action on the HIV and Aids epidemic.

He writes an annual letter to partners—governments, NGOs, church leaders, youth activists—any person and institution working in the area of HIV and Aids. In his fourth letter, written on April 2, 2012, his focus is on ‘Getting to Zero’ which is the UNAIDS Joint Strategy 2011-2015 and the World Aids Day Campaign theme.

‘Getting to Zero’ means working together to create a world with zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero Aids-related deaths. The letter is actually a 24-page glossy brochure with well-structured sections, inspiring pictures, poignant facts all written in a personal style which makes for a wonderful read….so in other words if you are able to get your hands on it, I encourage you to read it. You can download it from the UNAIDS website unaids.org.

Well this is my long winded way of saying that I would like to share with you some of the things that Dr. Sidibe has written in his letter. Remember the focus is ‘Getting to Zero’. He writes this letter after signing a new agreement with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) which forges a new alliance demonstrating Africa’s leadership in the Aids response.

In the section ‘Believe it. Do it’, he writes about one of his most bold declarations—the end of new HIV infections among children by 2015. UNAIDS is focusing on 22 countries with the highest estimated numbers of pregnant women living with HIV and assisting these countries develop national plans with renewed vigour and support. He looks to 2012 as the “turning point where effective treatment regimens reach more pregnant women living with HIV than ever before.”

The most detailed section is the discussion on “What do we need for the future of HIV treatment?”. “A red pill, a blue pill and a green pill”, here he means simplified treatment for first, second and third line regimens.

He writes at length about “Medicines—that are easier to take and are less toxic, developed through public-private partnerships”. “Simplified point-of-care” by scaling up and providing easier, faster and cheaper devices for CD4 counting. “Better paediatric formulations”—the number of infants with HIV is decreasing but better formulations are needed for the 3.4 million children currently living with the disease.

“Reduced costs for the second and third line regimens”. “Integrated service delivery”, where he specifically mentions Medicins sans Frontiers (MSF’s) programme in Thyolo where lag time between diagnosis and treatment dropped from three months to three weeks after hospitals shifted treatment delivery to health centres where nurses manage it directly.

“Keeping the hope for the vaccine alive!” where he writes “The world must not lose sight of the quest for an effective vaccine against HIV. A preventive vaccine, remains the sustainable solution to ending Aids.”

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