“Activists and the health care providers cite a need for more federal and state funding for outreach and drug assistance programs, as well as transportation for patients who have to travel from small towns to get care.”1 This statement was taken from a recent New York Times article, and one would naturally assume the author was referring to some country in sub-Saharan Africa or somewhere in India that is still doing poorly in controlling its AIDS epidemic. One would not be inclined to make the assumption that the author was referring to the United States. However, the author was referring to Mississippi and the south in general.
So much attention, money and resources are given to HIV/AIDS on a global level. The need to combat HIV/AIDS globally has poured billions of dollars into NGOs and local governments, and it has manifested into overambitious plans and goals. Yet 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, how much progress has been made?
Across the world, nations continue to see their numbers increase of new HIV/AIDS cases, and not just the developing world either. According to the New York Times article, forty-six percent of new AIDS cases in [the United States] in 2007 were in the South, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The South leads the nation in the percentage of AIDS-related deaths. Yet, the region ranks last when it comes to overall federal dollars spent on an HIV-infected person at $6,565 a year, according to the coalition.
How can a country pour billions of dollars into fighting the epidemic across the globe (think Bush’s PEPFAR program), and in spite of that, cannot provide the necessary funding and services in its own backyard? “If we want to be a global leader in combating H.I.V./AIDS, we need to act like it,” Mr. Obama said. “Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat.”2
In my opinion, Obama took a step in the right direction by lifting the ban, too often the U.S. and other ‘western’ countries will impose its money and standards and rules in combating certain diseases, however, will not live up to these standards and rules themselves, making them looked two-faced. For example, one the one hand creating and supporting programs that help to reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS and at the same time having policies in place that help to reinforce the social stigmas of being positive.
HIV/AIDS has been a topic of discussion for a long time in the public/global health realm. It continues to receive a lot of attention and funding. However, if the nations and organizations that provide all the funding do not take a step back to look at the negative impact of all the specialized focus, these programs and funding will continue to cause more harm to the health care systems as a whole.