More Pie: Some Thinking on World AIDS Day

Pumppie cake

(Two delicious pies baked into a cake. We should think big.)

The most common complaint about World AIDS Day goes like this – HIV already gets the lion’s share of global health funding and attention. Why don’t we pay attention to diarrhea/pneumonia/NTDs/indoor air pollution for a change? Ten years ago, I would have agreed with that argument. Diarrhea and pneumonia and NTDs and indoor air pollution do need more funding and more attention. It’s infuriating that they don’t get it.

But here’s what I have figured out in the last decade: we can have more pie. Differently put, global health is not a zero-sum game. We can increase the funding that goes to it. In the last ten years, we have. The Global Fund and the Gates Foundation have radically increased the resources available to global health. The private sector has started funding global health, and government donors have increased their commitments.

There is nothing wrong with so much attention going to AIDS. HIV gets exactly as much attention as it deserves. It’s the second most terrifying pandemic of our time. (I really think first place belongs to MDR TB.) About two million people a year die from AIDS, and there are about 33 million people currently infected with HIV. It is devastating to communities, families, and nations. It is worthy of every red ribbon, activist, and dollar of funding it receives.

What is wrong is that other health problems don’t get as much attention. And that’s not a problem we solve by ignoring HIV. It’s a problem we solve by bringing more attention to the rest of the world’s serious health problems. We should learn from the publicity for HIV, not complain about it. What we need is to get that kind of attention for everything that deserves it.

I wanted to post this on World AIDS day, but ended up writing for two other blogs instead. (End the Neglect and UN Dispatch, both worth reading, I like to believe.)