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Targets for AIDS

5 December 2010

from Oxfam International's Flickr Page

IRIN’s PlusNews asks: Does the world need more AIDS targets:

With just a month to go before the deadline for achieving the targets of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care expires, it is clear very few countries will reach them.

After the world failed to meet the goal of treating 3 million people living with AIDS by 2005 (known popularly as the 3×5 campaign), in 2006 the United Nations General Assembly agreed to a new goal: providing universal access to treatment by 2010. The UNGASS Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS asserts signatories will:

Commit ourselves to pursuing all necessary efforts to scale up nationally driven, sustainable and comprehensive responses to achieve broad multisectoral coverage for prevention, treatment, care and support…

But the IRIN article makes us consider an important question: do ambitious goals positively affect global HIV/AIDS efforts? In my course on Comparative Responses to AIDS in Africa this term, students almost universally challenged the efforts of those who promoted the 3×5 campaign as overzealous dreamers with no practical idea of whether their goal was even achievable. They thought it irresponsible. The IRIN article gives us some tangible reasons why, best captured by a statement attributed to AIDS researcher Alan Whiteside:

…”unreachable targets” were demoralizing and unfair to the health workers expected to meet them with often inadequate resources.

In their defense, goal-maker Sheila Tlou, stated:

“People need targets… We always say, ‘Aim for the sky and you’ll reach somewhere’; had countries been given targets that were just mid-way, chances are they would actually by now only have realized half of that.”

Should we imply from her statement that attempts reaching 50% of the target are reasonable? (In my class, 50% isn’t a passing grade.) Put simply, do we have to make ambitious goals in order to achieve lesser, but still acceptable ends? More generally, would we achieve nothing without goals?

HT @sc_seo.

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