Article by HEARD Executive Director published in The LancetGeneral

HEARD Executive Director Professor Nana Poku.HEARD Executive Director Professor Nana Poku.

Chair and Executive Director of the Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD), Professor Nana Poku, has been published in the The Lancet.

Widely considered to be among the most well established and prestigious publications in the world, The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal which publishes various outputs on human health and their impacts on the health sector.

The impact factor, which measures the success of a journal by how frequently it has been cited, shows that The Lancet is one of the most well cited and read in the field.

The article by Poku, featured under the comment section of the journal, is titled: ‘UN political declaration on HIV and AIDS: where to begin?’ .  It appears in Volume 388, No. 10046 of the journal.

The article addresses the United Nations (UN) political declaration to commit to ending AIDS by the year 2030, which endorses The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) fast- track approach. While questioning the viability of the approach meeting its target, Poku provides critical commentary in the article in which he remarks on the various challenges the 2030 strategy faces.

One such challenge is the uncertainty of funding in the current global geo-political environment which has led to donors falling away.  Poku, however, mentions solutions to the problem which do not create a dependency on increased fiscal measures. His sentiments are the resounding echo of the representatives of African nations present at the recent global AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016), in which they mentioned the burden of drawing from the fiscus, away from other pressuring costs to fund the response.

Another challenge the representatives faced was finding international donor funding from wealthier nations who had stretched their budgets to other health, political and social responses. The result of the debate was for Africa to look within.

Poku contextualises the solutions presented from the declaration, the 2016 Conference and from his daily effort towards advancing health equity.

One of the solutions mentioned is HIV prevention; which if implemented more efficiently would result in fewer cases, and in turn, less cost. Another, Universal Health Coverage (UHC), is a model system of healthcare in which all citizens of a country gain access to proper health services without the burden of financial constraints. Poku uses this model in his argument and calls for its implementation in the strengthening of health systems.

Lastly, Poku mentions the importance of access to essential medicines for HIV and AIDS response, which he notes is threatened by trade and intellectual property regulations. This likely medicine insecurity would result in millions being unable to access affordable live-saving treatment thus contributing further to a concentrated health crisis.

Poku concludes by saying the strategic conditions surrounding the AIDS response are predicted to worsen. He urges stakeholders to rethink the current dominant strategy, noting that it is politics that enable the programmatic response and notes that ‘shoring up the progress of the past 15 years and making advances in the critical areas need not and cannot wait’.

Thomais Armaos