AIDS 2014: Clinton’s speech disrupted by protestors
A capacity crowd gathered to see former US President Bill Clinton address delegates at AIDS 2014, the 20th International AIDS Conference.
Clinton was there to speak about his role advocating for global health initiatives with his foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). Formed in 2002 under the moniker Clinton HIV AIDS Initiative to fight the spread of HIV AIDS in developing countries by assisting in expanding access to treatment, training and technology, CHAI has since evolved to encompass training programs and more.
When CHAI began, the cost of treating HIV AIDS in low and middle income countries was over $10,000. In the decade since, CHAI has helped reduce the cost of medicines to around $100-$200 per person per year in many low income countries.
It's a story Clinton is understandably proud of, but one that didn't stop Coalition Plus protestors raising a ruckus at today’s session. Soon after the president began his speech, they left their seats, placards in hand to protest and call for a Robin Hood tax to assist with payments of medication. (The robin hood tax calls for a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), to be implemented across the European Union at a rate of 0.1percent).
Speaking after Clinton’s keynote, Michael Tiliki one of the Coalition Plus protestors said: “There is a lot of conversation about getting undetectable by 2020 but the issue is no one is talking about how to fund antiretrovirals for everyone. And I think that’s problematic. We know we have to scale up treatment and we know we need other tools to do that – but we don't know where the money is coming from.”
Strangely enough it’s a sentiment the former president echoed in his speech. However Clinton suggested we actually have the money now – we just need to be wise as to how we are directing our spending.
“The development of super-efficient systems can help us achieve the 90 / 90 / 90 goals,” Clinton said, referring to the UNAIDS 2020 targets of 90% of people with HIV knowing their status, 90% of people with HIV receiving antiretroviral treatment and 90% of people on treatment having an undetectable viral load.
“We will be forced regardless to be more efficient. We know treatment is affordable. We can afford the treatment and we can’t afford not to, said Clinton.
“Pregnant mothers we fail to initiate on treatment will give birth to more HIV positive infants. Children we don't diagnose will fall through the cracks, and end up in hospital wards in developing countries all around the world. Adults who are currently not sick enough to get treatment will become discouraged and will end up being lost to the system until its too late. We cannot let this happen. Our latest analysis of the global cost of the HIV epidemic suggests we simply don't have to. We can achieve the promise of WHO guidelines within the existing funding envelope if we use our resources more effectively.”
Clinton went on to cite examples of how his foundation CHAI had worked with Rwanda to save billions in health care costs.
Clinton also suggested AIDS 2014 was more of a movement than a conference, and encouraged delegates and those involved with HIV around the world to “step up the pace” and continue to make in-roads in the global response to HIV.
He also paid his respects to the victims of MH17 including the six delegates due to attend AIDS 2014 . He said the delegates who died, through their work for the global HIV response “gave their entire lives to the proposition that our common humanity matters a hell of a lot more than our differences”.