Bioethics Blogs

The Politics of HIV

Harry Critchley argues that laws and policies can contribute to the spread or reduction of HIV infections.


The International AIDS Conference has returned to Durban, South Africa for the first time in nearly two decades. When the conference was last held there in 2000, President Thabo Mbeki shocked attendees by publicly questioning the causal link between HIV and AIDS and walking out during an impassioned keynote address by a young boy born with HIV. In a recent op-ed, South Africa’s health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, noted that the conference in 2000 marked a low point in the country’s official attitude towards HIV/AIDS—a failure on the government’s part that is estimated to have led to nearly 330,000 premature deaths between 2000 and 2005.

In the intervening years, however, South Africa has experienced a sea change in its approach to HIV, in large part because of greater synergy between government policy makers and the scientific community. The country now operates the world’s largest drug treatment initiative and has seen significant improvements in its life expectancy and newborn infection rates. South Africa is also at the forefront of new prevention, testing, and treatment programs for HIV. The country still faces steep challenges, however. It has the largest population with HIV in the world and struggles with high rates of infection amongst young women aged 15 to 24. Nonetheless, the ambitious ’90-90-90’ UNAIDS global targets for 2020—90% of persons with HIV diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed receiving treatment, and 90% of those receiving treatment virally suppressed—appear for the first time to be within reach.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.