Health Action AIDS and Beyond

In the past 2+ years that I have been Director of the Health Action AIDS campaign, I’ve been so inspired by the commitment of our health professional advocates to fighting the AIDS epidemic and promoting US global AIDS policy based on sound science and human rights. As our political environment, our global economy and our understanding of the AIDS epidemic develops with time, Health Action AIDS advocacy has always been on the forefront of shaping global health policy.The impact and lessons learned from the Health Action AIDS campaign have led PHR to further explore the connection between health and human rights. Responding to the global AIDS epidemic has reinforced our knowledge that an equitable and accessible health system is core to improving the health of the worlds’ most vulnerable.In response to the realization that global health cannot be improved until an approach to health takes into account the combination of all components of the health sector, PHR is launching an initiative that will explore the implementation of a comprehensive, right to health approach to health systems strengthening.Indeed, we have come a long way since May 2002, when PHR first convened leading medical, nursing and public health experts at the first John Lloyd Summit on HIV/AIDS in Stony Point, New York.The question under consideration: would it be possible to mobilize US health professionals to advocate for a comprehensive, rights-based response to the global AIDS epidemic.At that time, access to lifesaving medications was changing the course of AIDS in the US, while the epidemic continued to ravage the developing world, especially sub-Saharan Africa. The challenge put forth by the group was: “Who is going to say ‘no more’ to a continent dying?”Questions of equity, access to treatment and the responsibility of health professionals were considered, ultimately identifying US indifference to the global epidemic as the major problem that needed addressing. Was it feasible for PHR to rally the powerful voices of health professionals in response to that indifference and launch a national campaign to bring awareness and outrage to a growing epidemic that was a product of pervasive human rights violations?The answer: the launch of PHR’s Health Action AIDS Campaign.Eight years later, the Health Action AIDS campaign has helped revolutionize the US response to global health and highlighted the powerful role that health professionals can play in the development and implementation of health policies.The campaign’s success has been significant and you have been central to that success. You willingness to lend your voice and expertise to Health Action AIDS campaign priorities has helped shape HIV/AIDS policy and programming that has saved literally millions of lives.Over the next few months, our Health Action AIDS campaign will begin the transition to this new, broader Right to Health initiative. Although we planned to devote more time to this campaign transformation, lack of continued funding has required us to expedite the process. At the same time we recognize that the AIDS epidemic is far from over, thus, PHR’s commitment to many of the Health Action AIDS priorities will remain strong.We will keep you apprised of this work and look forward to your continued engagement as we move our agenda forward.

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