When World AIDS Day was first commemorated in 1988 there was very little to be optimistic about. Today, there is real cause to be hopeful. It took a Big Push, but now free treatment is widely available in much of the developing world where more HIV+ people are getting life-saving medication every year. Critics said this couldn’t be done, but we proved them wrong. With another Big Push, we can end the AIDS pandemic, just like we eliminated small pox.

The optimism for this once unthinkable goal is based on the progress we have seen in the past 10 years. The proof is in the results. In 2002, less than 300,000 people were receiving AIDS treatment in the developing world. Today 8.6 million are on treatment. Programmes financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria support nearly half of those people.

New infections are in decline as well. According to a recent report by ONE, cases of mother-to-child transmission of HIV have fallen by 24% in only two years, and AIDS deaths have fallen by 24% since they peaked in 2005. The price of treatment has also dropped significantly, from more than US$ 10,000 per year for one person to less than US$ 100.

Yesterday, the Global Fund released data showing an increase in 2012 of 900,000 in the number of people on HIV treatment. This takes the total of people getting treatment under programmes supported by the Global Fund to 4.2 million, nearly half the HIV+ people receiving treatment in the developing world. That is 4.2 million more people who can now live healthy lives and contribute to the economic growth of their countries. Few could argue against this excellent return on investment by donors.

The Big Push against HIV

However, we still have a long way to go, and we most definitely need a Big Push to end the AIDS pandemic. There are still 23.5 million people infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa alone whose lives hang in the balance.

The UN estimates that every year there is a US$ 6 billion funding gap, which must be filled, not only from traditional donors like the US, UK and France, but from emerging economies as well, including Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which marked its 10th anniversary at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos 2012, has come a long way since former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan first called for a global “war chest” to fight AIDS back 12 years ago in the same event. He had a vision that with the right resources there could be an innovative 21st century organization to stack the cards against the AIDS emergency. He was right and the Global Fund has proven its effectiveness in spades: getting millions of HIV+ people on treatment, helping to drive down drug costs, working with countries on prevention techniques that are effective, and partnering with the private sector to strengthen supply chain methods so no person in need is too far to reach.

Although the AIDS response has transitioned from responding to a global emergency to a sustainable fight, our sense of urgency must remain. It was that same sense of urgency on the first World AIDS Day in 1988 and the Global Fund’s creation in 2002 that led us to these times of optimism on this World AIDS Day. With another Big Push we can change optimism to celebration.

Author: Claudia Gonzalez is Head of Marketing at The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria

Photo: A Kenyan woman prepares ribbons in preparation for World Aids Day REUTERS/Antony Njuguna