AIDS—Striking a Balance Between Hype and Hope

Do aspirational goals such as an “end of AIDS” motivate action, or do they ultimately lead to inaction? Do they further hype or hope?

In an editorial in the July 11 issue of the journal Science, Columbia’s Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, University Professor and director of ICAP; Katherine Harripersaud, MPH, ICAP staff member; and Ronald Bayer, PhD, professor of sociomedical sciences at Mailman School of Public Health, discuss various historical public health campaigns, such as the ongoing “war on cancer” and the successful eradication of smallpox.

Since 2001, HIV incidence has declined by 33 percent globally, and more than 9.7 million people with HIV have gained access to treatment. But an overemphasis on these successes could lead to complacency and a consequent resurgence of the disease.

The authors write,

Why … have some scientists and advocates trumpeted the goal of an “end of AIDS”? We perceive that they are haunted by the fear of donor fatigue and a loss of momentum in the face of recognized challenges. However, despite these concerns, we believe that with concerted efforts and sustained commitments, we can make substantial advances toward the hope of a world in which AIDS is no longer an epidemic threat.

Read the full editorial here.

Watch a video of Dr. Bayer commenting on the Mississippi baby, thought to be successfully treated, who shows new signs of the virus.