UNAIDS Executive Director Piot Concerned About Keeping HIV/AIDS on Political Agenda Amid Leadership Changes
As leadership changes are taking place in Western nations and at organizations worldwide, it could be difficult to keep HIV/AIDS on the political agenda, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said on Tuesday in an interview ahead of a lecture at Stanford University, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Piot said that long-term leadership is required to keep HIV/AIDS on the political agenda. According to the Chronicle, many leadership changes are taking place as the global battle against HIV/AIDS enters a "state of transition -- from one of proving that a large-scale treatment with anti[retroviral] drugs was possible, to one of sustaining it as the number of people living with HIV grows."
Piot said that treatment "is not going to stop this epidemic," adding that in 2005, for every person who received antiretrovirals, six other people contracted the virus. "That is not sustainable," Piot said, adding, "That means we are losing the battle." According to the Chronicle, global spending on HIV/AIDS has increased from $250 million annually 10 years ago to almost $10 billion annually, but spending will need to increase to $20 billion annually to meet the Group of Eight industrialized nation's goal of providing universal access to antiretrovirals by 2010. Piot said he is "very worried" about continuing support for HIV/AIDS from wealthy countries when other issues -- such as regional conflicts, poverty, economic development and climate change -- are competing for the attention of world leaders. "Sustaining political intent on any issue is very tough," he added.
According to Piot, one of the lessons that has surfaced in the fight against HIV is that the cost of treating the virus today would be less if world leaders had taken action earlier. "We are paying now for the price of inaction," he said, adding, "The lesson is that if anything else like this come[s] up, act now." In response to changing world leadership, Piot is working to recruit a new generation of leaders to focus on the fight against HIV, the Chronicle reports. Piot, in collaboration with google.org, is organizing a conference in Mountain View, Calif., scheduled for mid-October, that will focus on what young people can do with technology during the next 25 years of the epidemic, the Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/9).