AIDS and the International Community: Attacking society

AIDS has been an issue for local communities, national governments and international organisations for nearly twenty years, but only in the past twelve months has the world community shown a response equal to the seriousness of the epidemic. It is a global issue as important to our common future as protecting the environment, our efforts to build peace and working to end poverty. These core challenges are all inextricably linked, and AIDS is one of the key points of linkage.

The World Today Updated 28 October 2020 Published 1 December 2000 5 minute READ

Peter Piot

Executive Director, UNAIDS

As the spread and toll of the HIV pandemic has grown, it has become clearer that it must be understood not only for its natural history and epidemiology, but also in terms of its capacity to magnify all the social problems of the environment where it occurs.

In the same way that it attacks the body’s immune system, HIV assaults the protective fabric of society. The direct clinical manifestations of the disease deplete the immune system, rendering the body susceptible to the destructive force of innumerable other illnesses, some of which are already present in benign form. In analogous fashion at the macro–social level, the direct manifestation of an HIV epidemic creates one level of harm, felt principally in the health sector in the burden of care, but it also opens societies to wider and more prolonged damage as it depletes their social capacity to respond.

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