Prevention Should Be ‘First Line of Defense’ in Fight Against HIV/AIDS, Opinion Piece Says
Although the "massive scale up" of antiretroviral drug treatment programs is a "moral and practical imperative," HIV/AIDS prevention should remain the "first line of defense" in the fight against the virus, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot writes in an opinion piece published in The Hindu. The "time has come to reinvigorate prevention efforts and to move beyond the current, reactive methods," as less than 20% of the world's population currently has access to HIV/AIDS prevention services, according to Piot. However, "simply adding the 'V' for vulnerable groups" to the ABC prevention method -- which stands for Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms -- is "not enough," as demonstrated through the "steady" increase in the number of HIV cases among women in India, Piot writes. Because "information and awareness will not be enough to address the plight of women in India," gender equality "must be translated from an ideal into legal reality," and the "youth of India must be protected," according to Piot. Women and girls must be given equal access to employment opportunities and education, while stigma, discrimination, and child abuse and exploitation must be reduced, Piot says. Finally, national- and state-level governments, along with donor and multilateral organizations, should "recognize that prevention is not the unscientific, feel-good issue best left" to nongovernmental, community and faith-based organizations, Piot says, adding that HIV/AIDS prevention "must be embedded in every aspect of the national response" to the disease. "Only with stepped up commitment on treatment and prevention can the AIDS epidemic be controlled," Piot writes, concluding, "Unless the cycle of infections that feeds the disease is stopped, treatment will prove unsustainable and the goal of universal access will be only a dream" (Piot, The Hindu, 11/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.