‘Ending AIDS’ or scaling down the HIV response?

Authored by: Nora Kenworthy , Matthew Thomann , Richard Parker

Routledge Handbook on the Politics of Global Health

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138238596
eBook ISBN: 9781315297255
Adobe ISBN:


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If the decade following the first Durban AIDS Conference in 2000 was marked by discourses about an epidemic ‘out of control’ (Bhattacharya, 2003; Simbanda, 2000), and a politics of emergency that justified exceptional activism and action (Benton, 2015; Piot, 2003), the decade of AIDS responses beginning in 2010 has been distinctly framed by declarations that the end of AIDS is not only possible, but imminent. Crafted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and honed by years of funding plateaus and programme retrenchments, the prominence of an ‘End of AIDS’ discourse was further reinforced in the summer of 2016, first at the UNAIDS High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in June, and subsequently at the 21st International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa. Questioning the feasibility of an end to AIDS without renewed long-term financial commitments and highlighting the persistent and frustrating challenges of sustaining effective treatment and prevention programmes, detractors were quick to question the optimism of this new campaign. ‘Although the … strategy is carefully delineated and politically endorsed, it is financially unsecured; and hard choices await’, wrote Nana Poku (2016b, p. 743), highlighting the urgency of a ‘strategic reckoning of expanding needs and diminishing means’. Nevertheless, the 2017 UNAIDS report on the status of the global epidemic, while taking a more tempered tone and warning that specific populations and regions were ‘lagging behind’ in reaching targets, continued to heavily promote the notion of ‘progress’ towards the achievable goal of ‘ending AIDS’ (UNAIDS, 2017).

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