New Initiative To Anticipate Future Of AIDS

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World Economic Forum created aids2031, a global initiative dedicated to taking a critical look at what we need to do now in order to change the face of AIDS by 2031. The year 2031 will mark 50 years since AIDS was first reported.

According to Stefano Bertozzi, chairperson of the aids2031 steering committee and director of health economics and evaluation for the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca, Mexico, the focus of aids2031 is greatly needed.

"Despite more than a quarter century of experience, and some real results, HIV continues to spread and to destabilize whole sections of the globe. Short term solutions have clearly not worked," said Bertozzi. "It is now time for those in positions of influence to take a longer-term more comprehensive view of what AIDS is doing not only to global health, but also to international politics, economics and our hopes for the future."

aids2031 brings together economists, epidemiologists, social and political scientists, and communication experts to generate new thinking about AIDS. "We are committed to a simple premise: what works best to generate short-term results is often not the best way to reverse the epidemic in the long run," says Bertozzi. "We are looking at everything with new lenses and fresh perspectives."

According to Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, it is time to shift today's global AIDS response from primarily a short-term crisis management approach to include planning for a long-term sustained response. "While global warming is moving from being a long-wave to short-wave phenomenon, we are seeing AIDS move from being a short-term emergency to becoming a long-wave phenomenon," says Piot. "We must look at what we can do differently now in order to influence the future face of AIDS."

"For me, the critical question relates to leadership and what type of leadership we want over the next 20, 30 or 50 years," explains Zackie Achmat, leader of the South Africa Treatment Action Campaign and member of the aids2031 steering committee. "A program of leadership doesn't just look at the easy parts of the epidemic but also at the hard parts."

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aids2031 was established to ask some of the hard questions facing the future of AIDS.

"We are especially pleased to be one of the principal supporters of aids2031, a consortium of partners who have come together to look at what we have learned in the first 25 years of the AIDS response, take into account the changing world around AIDS, and map options for the future," said Jean-Louis Schiltz, minister for development cooperation and humanitarian affairs of Luxembourg. The government of Luxembourg and several other foundations are early supporters of aids2031.

"Any business knows that not investing for the future can lead to ultimate failure. aids2031 will start to shift our response from largely short-term spending, based on current needs, to longer term investing, with potential for great future dividends," notes Rajat Gupta, chair of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

aids2031 has nine working groups in the following areas: leadership, financing, social drivers, modeling the epidemic, programmatic response, science and technology, communication, the special needs of hyper-endemic countries, and of countries in rapid economic transition. The initiative will conduct a series of think tanks, public conversations, broadcast dialogues and programming, youth summits, original research, as well as web-based discussions designed to get people throughout the world thinking about the question "how can we best prepare for and live with AIDS in the future?"

"aids2031 offers great promise for planning, research and development," says Tachi Yamada, president of the Global Health Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "The knowledge it generates will allow individual countries and the global community to better target their efforts, yielding long-term benefits in the fight against AIDS."

"aids2031 has come at a critical turning point in the epidemic as we increasingly confront the reality of long term, and growing, funding needs," says Michel Kazatchkine, head of the Global Fund. "We look to aids2031 to help us plan our investments for the future."

In 2009, the aids2031 steering committee will release An Agenda for the Future, a report of their final recommendations. It is hoped that these recommendations can guide countries as well as donors as they plan for the future response to AIDS.

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