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"Not Enough Money" Is no Excuse for Africa's HIV Treatment Gap

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Haven't you always wanted to be a part of something really big? Something that has a real impact and makes a difference in the world?

Imagine if you were diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. You panic. You experience extreme stress dealing with this news. You wait a while for the news to sink in and then slowly tell your family members. There are tears and anger. You, and they, are heartbroken and can't understand how or why this should happen to you.

You slowly adjust to the news, dealing with family, friends and your own emotions. You join a support group and at one meeting you hear about life-saving medications that are available. Members of your support group who are on the medications tell you that they had been getting weaker and thought they were going to die but once they started the treatment they quickly felt stronger and had more energy.

At your next medical appointment you speak about these treatments. You want to benefit from them as you have been experiencing some of what you now know are symptoms of more advanced illness. The nurse avoids looking at you directly. She says you are not ready. You talk about your symptoms and how weak you have been feeling. Eventually you manage to pry out of her the information that there are no spaces left on the treatment list. That you cannot start the medications until someone else in your community dies and a space on the treatment list opens up.

When you desperately ask how on earth this could happen, explaining how much you need these medications, how you have to stay alive for your children, you learn that there simply is not enough money and tough decisions have to be made. Your country has not been deemed a development priority and your local health system can't afford to keep the cost of treatment going either, even though they have dramatically increased support to health services in past years.

Imagine how you feel now, knowing that without your medications your condition will get worse and you know you will die -- a death that is completely avoidable. Imagine feeling that the world, including your own country, doesn't care enough to keep you alive.

In some countries this has been a reality. This is surely what will happen more often if we don't keep our promise to get people living with HIV onto medications and keep them in treatment, even in the most difficult circumstances.

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10 Things We've Learned About HIV/AIDS In 2012
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The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was established 12 years ago as a major vehicle to support the achievement of universal access to treatment, prevention, care and support for the three diseases. A broad range of donors have generously supported the Fund and recipient countries are contributing increasing amounts of their own budgets to health concerns, including HIV, TB and malaria.

Over the past few years we have seen unprecedented progress in our response to HIV -- 12 years ago only 50,000 people were receiving anti-retroviral therapies in Sub-Saharan Africa and now that number is 5 million. We have achieved what seemed impossible only a decade ago and we have done it together.

We have begun to voice a reality that was once a dream -- that we truly can bring an end to this epidemic. We know what needs to be done and how to do it. What we need is for the response to continue to be bold and be robustly supported financially so that we can indeed keep those promises we made so many years ago.

If you want to be part of something really big, something that will truly make a difference in our world, then join others in your community, country and globally to work towards a fully-funded Global Fund. Think about those who are living with HIV and cannot access the life-saving medications that are freely available in richer countries. Think of people who die knowing that their deaths could be avoided. And imagine if it was you.