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March 27, 2014

The AIDS-free generation: PHII’s role in Obama’s HIV/AIDS global health policy

This report from the CSIS Global Health Policy Center does an excellent job of summarizing President Obama’s global health policy in his second term, particularly ongoing U.S. priorities in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Obama’s global health policy is aimed primarily at Africa and emphasizes shared responsibility and orderly transitions between shareholders. This policy more or less assumes a “teach a man to fish” approach—as countries grow and develop stronger infrastructure, they take on a proportional increase in responsibility for supporting the health of their people. As responsibility passes from the U.S. to a developing nation’s government, this trade-off must be handled cautiously and smoothly.

Why the policy’s emphasis on smooth transitions? Because maintaining steady levels of funding is essential when dealing with HIV/AIDS treatment. Investments in HIV/AIDS must be considered a lifelong commitment, because pulling treatment results in possible mutation of the disease, not to mention the deaths of those suddenly left without treatment. For AIDS, of course, treatment and prevention are one in the same; reducing the viral load of an individual patient means cutting that person’s risk of transmission dramatically.

PHII plays a modest role in this process of making nations stronger partners in global health efforts: we provide support for systematic development. We help countries develop primary care by monitoring and evaluating progress toward disease reduction goals and monitoring the capacities and capabilities of emerging health systems. Using informatics, we gather data and develop country-specific systems that will gather timely data long after we leave. Juneka recently wrote of PHII’s work in Mozambique. We also have a similar project in the works for Botswana, and we are in the middle of a project based in Uganda.

If we do everything right, we can accelerate both health care itself and the quality of systems that develop these health systems. This could help bring us closer to the bottom-line goal of the president’s HIV/AIDS global health policy: achieving an AIDS-free generation.

David A. Ross, ScD

President/CEO of the Task Force for Global Health, former director of PHII