Author: M. G.
Baron Professor Peter Piot, ex-UNAIDS director and now director and professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, described what's HIV today during a speech for the 20th anniversary of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
There are still many HIV related myths to be disproved like those concerning a near end of the epidemic. An exaggerated optimism will lead to a collective state of denial, whose effect you can already see in the higher rates of infection within the younger generations. Too many say -or are simply convinced- that HIV is not a risk, ‘You don't die of AIDS anymore', ‘There are treatments' and so forth: the reality is that people die from AIDS related causes every day and people still get infected all over the planet. Plus, even if the infection rates are globally decreasing, regions like Pacific Asia and Eastern Europe still show a contrasting trend. "I am not saying there hasn't been progress, but people's behaviour and societies are not mathematical models and cannot be predicted. Let's stop saying AIDS is over. One day, we will be there, but not yet!"
The AIDS movement is fundamental, activism is still necessary and it should be as strong as it was during the beginning of the epidemic: "Where is the anger?" Piot asked. Researches for a vaccine are fundamental, "Ending HIV without a vaccine will simply not be possible", at the same time the end of the epidemic is not a simple matter of treatments and research. Preventing new infections is a very different concept from curing people who are already infected. Behavioural features are fundamental: sexual education and an increasing knowledge about safe sex are aspects that can certainly change the actual situation, especially with the younger generation. Moreover the way how HIV prevention works is extremely affected by the prejudice and discrimination of certain societies against HIV+ people and other minorities.
Obviously we must also consider the money factor: HIV prevention needs funding and not all the countries of the planet have the resources or the intention to make appropriate investments. Prevention programs need an economic back up in the poorest regions and a strong encouragement for those countries that aren't yet seriously considering the problem of HIV. Besides many NGOs like DAA and others are struggling with the economical aspects related to HIV prevention, in fact the projects of independent activists will never be strong enough to face the goals they'd like to achieve if they are not receiving an appropriate economical support.
What endangers the work of HIV/AIDS organizations and activists in 2014 is the ‘collective state of denial' mentioned before: HIV is real and it's still a problem especially because now is the moment when the single individuals must start taking actions by themselves. Science can't give us many answers anymore and we can't just expect science to do something that now simply is our duty.