This year’s World AIDS Day has an ambitious theme: “Getting to zero.” This means: Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
Significant progress has been made. AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence. More than eight million people living with HIV in developing countries are currently on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), which allow them to live healthy and productive lives. Scientific evidence stemming from research done in Canada by Dr. Julio Montaner and his team at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS shows that, by getting people on treatment earlier, you can reduce the spread of HIV. And, on paper at least, the political commitment is there: the international community has committed to scaling up HIV treatment to millions more who are still in need.
Success in “getting to zero” could be within our reach if countries, including Canada, fulfil their pledges to do more. But progress is continually threatened by inconsistent government policies. Canada, for example, has pledged almost $1.3 billion to support the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; yet, on the other hand, Canada is also entering into trade talks that threaten the availability of affordable generic medications for HIV and other diseases.