Red in partnership with the Global Fund (I think) and HBO has produced this 30 minute documentary called the Lazarus Effect. If you’re not familiar with the Bible, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus. The documentary shows the extraordinary effects treatment can have on people living with HIV. I have to admit, despite working in HIV prevention communication, I’ve never actually seen that happen, probably because most of the people I’ve seen that close to death, did die.

The documentary filmed in Zambia shows how in three months, people who looked skeletal and on the bring of death, when put on treatment, went back to putting on weight and looking healthy. The aim of the documentary is to show that treatment works and its needed. What the documentary didn’t talk about is how funding for treatment is running out. When you’re on treatment its for life, when you stop taking it, you can die – it’s as simple as that.

The fact that only a fraction of people who need treatment can afford it, or are on it with free meds is bad enough, but the fact that those already on treatment (through government or NGO programs), who knows how many more years treatment will be available – if governments continue to rely on foreign aid. Governments, especially African ones, need to be more responsible for their people without heavy reliance on foreign aid, because we need sustainable solutions.

And while they’re figuring out how to pay for treatment, they also need to figure out how to pay for intensive prevention campaigns, campaigns that work, campaigns that are relevant to its people. It’s cheaper to prevent HIV than put people on treatment for the rest of their lives.

First we need to understand why people are still getting infected. There is a lot of reasons or research published on this, but not so much on the socio-psychological dynamics. My sister – the Rhodes Scholar (yep I’m a proud sister) is doing her research project on how inter-personal relationships can affect people’s perception, and therefore taking, of risks. I can’t wait to read it.

There are obviously lots of ways to approach this, but without a significant investment of resources, prevention and treatment simply won’t be impactful enough to be successful – I know, I’m preaching to the choir.

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