Addressing the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

A U.S. Global AIDS Strategy for the Long Term

May 17, 2004

Council Special Report
Concise policy briefs that provide timely responses to developing crises or contributions to current policy dilemmas.

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Public Health Threats and Pandemics

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The Bush administration’s $15 billion AIDS initiative has received much attention for its boldness and size.

But, according to this indispensable Council Special Report, it will not succeed unless it is folded into a broader and longer-term commitment to developing basic health systems in affected countries. To successfully battle AIDS--one of the most pressing threats known to mankind--the effort must also go beyond health to address social and economic factors that drive the spread of the disease.

President Bush’s pledge is commendable from a humanitarian and human rights perspective. Still, the report, produced in consultation with experts from more than 30 private and government health organizations, concludes that the long-term costs of treatment ($9 billion to $12 billion a year) will run well into the middle of the twenty-first century and allocation of responsibilities need to be spelled out to the public, Congress, and the entire international community. “A humanitarian catastrophe of incomparable proportions, the pandemic is also a threat to global economic and geopolitical stability and a critical strategic threat to the United States,” the report asserts.

The report makes seven specific recommendations to make the U.S. anti-AIDS program sustainable and successful, including launching a long-term effort to build politically and financially sustainable basic health systems in the affected countries; being guided by the best available scientific evidence and being “ideology-free” in selecting and administering prevention and treatment programs; and pursuing a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS, paying particular attention to the factors fundamental to the pandemic’s spread, such as the vulnerability of women and girls.