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Rights here, right now

Mass, media and magnitude. Three initial words I would use to describe the International AIDS Conference this year in Vienna. The main session room quickly filled up as everyone waited in anticipation for President Bill Clinton, who opened the plenary session on Monday. The theme of his speech and the conference was clear: ‘Rights here, right now. Healthcare should be a right for everyone’.

In between several standing ovations, the former president passionately articulated several points on current HIV statistics and what is needed to achieve goals we have set for HIV prevention and treatment.

Five million are currently on treatment, yet this is only 1/3 of those who need it. Africa has 10% of the world’s population, yet only 3% of the world’s healthcare workers and 67% of the world’s HIV positive population.

We have previously made choices between treatment and prevention, adults and children, prevention for drug users and making a stand against drug users. The President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) has just announced its funds can now be used for needle exchange. Clinton continued by advocating for building the health systems and to tackle maternal and child health treatment together.

We need to fight AIDS in the right way. By improving Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), we will improve maternal and child health and lower the number of children born with HIV. By investing in child health through vaccines, we will increase the coverage for paediatric AIDS treatment.

Clinton finished by challenging governments to put more money into the health systems and to alter our own delivery systems, including cutting the cost of our how we distribute services. He said: ‘We can do better, we can achieve universal access, but we won’t do this by walking away’.

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