The Future of Global Health: Outcomes from the 66th World Health Assembly
The 66th World Health Assembly (WHA) concluded with a call for several significant shifts in focus, budget, and overall public health goals for 2014 and beyond. A few of the key outcomes from this year’s meeting include:
- New budget allocations--The budget for WHO for the next biennium (2014–2015) is US $3977 million. While this is a slight increase from the current budget, there are cuts to the organization’s programs for communicable diseases, outbreak, and emergency response, including funding allocated for HIV/AIDS.
- Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- The WHA adopted a resolution urging Member States to sustain and accelerate efforts towards the achievement of the health-related MDGs and ensure that health is central to the post-2015 UN development agenda. The Secretariat reported substantial progress towards the MDGs and their targets – most notably in reducing child and maternal mortality, improving nutrition, and reducing morbidity and mortality due to HIV infection, tuberculosis, and malaria.
- E-Health: A resolution on e-Health standardization and interoperability notes the importance of standardized, accurate, timely data, and health information to the functioning of health systems and services, while also highlighting that the security of this information, and privacy of personal clinical data will remain a priority.
- Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) — Member States reiterated their support of the GVAP to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through ensuring more equitable access to vaccines for people in all communities.
- Resolutions on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs)—The WHA shared plans to prevent and control the transmission and prevalence rates for both NTDs and NCDs as well as a resolution to eliminate the most common NTDs by 2020.
But what do these new targets mean for the global fight again HIV/AIDS, which was conspicuously not included in the full list of formal resolutions? While at first glance it may seem HIV/AIDS has been left out, especially because the new budget includes a proposed 5.1 percent overall spending cut for HIV/AIDS emergency response, the reality is that HIV/AIDS is part of nearly every new resolution put forth over the past week.
As we often discuss on the EGPAF blog, HIV/AIDS is intrinsically linked to other diseases and public health challenges such as cervical cancer, tuberculosis, and NTDs (just to name a few). The effort to eliminate HIV/AIDS is also crucial to achieving the health-related MDGs, especial MDG 5, improving maternal and child health, and MDG 6, combating HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, and malaria. In addition, new resolutions, such as a focus on e-Health, will drastically improve the way health professionals can diagnose, communicate with, and monitor HIV-positive patients—especially for pregnant women and mothers as we begin to scale-up life-long treatment as part of preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services.
Even the GVAP could have far-reaching implications for the HIV/AIDS community. As GVAP members work to access underserved communities around the world, its efforts could give those vulnerable communities access to current HIV/AIDS treatments. The GVAP also calls for increased research and development initiatives for new vaccines, which could potentially support a vaccine for HIV.
While there appears to be a new focus coming out this year’s WHA, HIV/AIDS elimination continues to play a crucial role in several of the 2013 WHA resolutions. As U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius mentioned in the opening plenary session on May 20, achieving an AIDS-free generation is a still top priority for the WHO, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and country-governments around the world.
Johanna Harvey is Senior Communications Officer for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.