More than 25,000 people from nearly 200 countries are descending on Washington, DC, next week for AIDS 2012, the 19th International AIDS Conference. The biennial event is returning to its birthplace in the United States after 22 years abroad, following a 2010 shift in US policy that lifted a travel ban for foreigners living with HIV.
The conference theme is “Turning the Tide Together.” This theme begs the question, what will it take to turn the tide against AIDS?
We already have a host of effective tools to fight the disease: nearly 30 lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, a range of field-tested biomedical and behavioral prevention approaches, and increasingly integrated care and support services. We still need more efficient service-delivery systems and technologies, program scale-up in resource-limited settings, and a focus on tackling the tough issues that reduce program effectiveness, such as gender inequities and stigma and discrimination directed at marginalized populations.
Which strategies work best?
We especially need further investments in operations research and program monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to determine which strategies are most effective and cost-effective in various contexts. Operations research and M&E build the evidence base that enables donors and countries to make smart investments in an uncertain global financial climate. This evidence base also provides the foundation for innovation to develop even more effective tools to address the complex determinants and consequences of HIV/AIDS.
Strong, evidence-based interventions are essential to designing programs that work, and rigorous, data-driven evaluation is essential to knowing why they work. PATH is deeply engaged in many countries—including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam—to further develop the evidence base underlying effective interventions and to build the capacity of local partners for both M&E and the implementation of high-quality interventions.
Collaboration is crucial
Collaboration among us all is crucial for continued progress. PATH currently partners with dozens of community-based organizations, governments, global bodies, and the private sector to confront the epidemic. Engagement at the community level—including communities living with HIV—is especially important for identifying, planning, and implementing effective interventions and for ultimately making these interventions sustainable.
This month at AIDS 2012, PATH is renewing our commitment to partnership by joining the International AIDS Society’s call to action. Only by working together can we turn the tide against AIDS.