AIDS 2010 Update: President Bill Clinton on the Future of the Fight Against AIDS

AIDS 2010 Update: President Bill Clinton on the Future of the Fight Against AIDS

By Muku Mugwagwa

Last week , the keynote speaker at the opening plenary of the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria,  was former President Bill Clinton. He took charge of the stage to address how to move forward in the global fight against AIDS. HIV & AIDS has become a chronic disease – we must transition our efforts from an emergency response to one we can sustain.

Clinton began his speech on an optimistic note, stating that the fight against AIDS has managed to raise more funding than any other epidemic in the world. In particular, Clinton highlighted the efforts of UNITAID as an effective avenue for stimulating broad based private funding. Small donations from campaigns such as Project Red prove that small donations from a large mass of people can go a long way in the fight against HIV & AIDS.

A valuable lesson that President Clinton gave his audience was how to specifically get President Obama to mobilize for more funding for global HIV & AIDS programs. He added that “there is always the option of demonstrating and calling President Obama names, but there is also the option of lobbying the President for more financial resources in the appropriate manner and forum.” Clinton adamantly supports the latter option, as he understands that funds can be used not only to fund safe needle exchanges worldwide, but also to help reduce the AIDS epidemic domestically.

Clinton’s speech focused on how to spend donor funds appropriately, “every dollar we waste today puts another life at risk,” he said.

Clinton believes it is important for nations to only fund organizations that can deliver better services with less overhead. Furthermore, it is important for more developed and economically stable countries to spend a large amount of their foreign assistance budgets on the most effective methods for helping those countries and people that are the poorest and most vulnerable.

Clinton’s model stresses the need for results, while challenging organizations to be effective. Furthermore, all efforts by development partners should be coordinated with local government and civil society organizations to help reduce the cost of antiretroviral drugs and service delivery. He said, “We can fix this, I challenge African countries to put money in their own health systems.”

Clinton closed optimistically, highlighting the current momentum in the fight to achieve universal access to antiretroviral therapies. Looking forward, he believes that the best way to fund the fight against AIDS will be to raise large amounts of money from numerous small units, which will contribute to funding health systems strengthening efforts. President Clinton urged countries to stress the long-term benefits of healthy long-living people, in the current debate; as well as a need for people to view health as an investment with extraordinary returns in the future.

The crowd gave the former president a standing ovation as a sign of respect for his vigilance as worldwide leader global health issues and international development.

Watch the footage of President Clinton’s speech

Muku Mugwagwa, Policy Intern at MSH,  is originally from Zimbabwe, Muku recently graduated from The University of British Columbia with a concentration in English and Political Science.