New York Times Profiles Former UNAIDS Executive Director Piot
The New York Times on Tuesday profiled Peter Piot, former executive director of UNAIDS who left the agency on Dec. 31 after 13 years. The article also examined efforts to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS worldwide during Piot's tenure. According to the Times, Piot is the "person most responsible" for educating heads of state on the economic, political and social implications of "a pandemic that rivals the worst in history." According to Piot, since its creation by the United Nations in 1996, UNAIDS has increased global public concern and financial support to fight the pandemic; helped to decrease the cost of antiretroviral drugs in low-income countries; and reached out to stigmatized groups who are at an increased risk of HIV, such as injection drug users and men who have sex with men. Piot said that when UNAIDS was established, "AIDS was definitely not on the world's political agenda, and now it is." He added that the initial budget for the program has increased from about $250 million in 1996 to about $10 billion currently, and that "if we had the kind of money that we have today 10 years ago, we would never have had an epidemic so out of control."
According to the Times, Piot also is responsible for helping the Untied Nations "characterize AIDS as a global security issue" and adding the disease "to the agendas of world economic forums." Critics of UNAIDS argue the agency's "narrow focus" on HIV/AIDS "can diminish the attention to other health problems," the Times reports. However, Piot said that millions of people would have died without the efforts made by UNAIDS. The agency "works and that is what matters," he said, adding that "well-focused organizations have much greater impact than those with broader mandates." Piot attributes his successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS to basing policy recommendations on scientific evidence, the Times reports (Altman, New York Times, 12/30/08). Michel Sidibe -- who served as deputy executive director of UNAIDS for the past two years and began working for the organization in 2001 as a director of country and regional support -- succeeded Piot as executive director of UNAIDS on Jan. 1 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/2/08).