Photo Credit: Ken Avelino / Clinton Foundation
Dec 01
December 1, 2016

Looking Behind the Numbers on World AIDS Day


In 2002, President Clinton launched the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) to help save the lives of millions of people living with HIV/AIDS in the developing world by increasing access to life-saving HIV treatment. At the time, this goal was seen as especially challenging due to weak health systems in the countries CHAI was working in and the high prices of HIV drugs and diagnostics. To execute its mission and early work, CHAI played a leadership role, working alongside governments and other partners to lower the costs of treatment and help build the in-country systems necessary to provide life-saving treatment to millions of people. 

We’re proud to say that to date, more than 11.8 million people in more than 70 countries have access to CHAI-negotiated prices for HIV/AIDS medicines, and that together with UNITAID, and other global partners, CHAI supported performing more than 1 million HIV diagnostic tests for infants globally in 2014 alone.

On this World AIDS Day, we encourage you to learn more about the people “behind the numbers” whose lives have been positively impacted by this work. Their experiences are why we’re so proud of the impact of the Clinton Health Access Initiative for improving lives and opportunities worldwide.                                                                                                  

Meet Basil, one of the first children in Cambodia to receive life-saving antiretroviral treatment.
If you were to meet Basil today, you would be surprised by his story. He’s a typical kid, happy, rambunctious, and full of hope and wonder. But his future wasn’t always destined to be this way. When Basil was just one month old, he was found on the Cambodia/Thailand border, his mother had died of AIDS, and his father had abandoned him. Basil was then diagnosed as HIV-positive and with advance staged Tuberculosis. Basil was immediately put on HIV treatment that was made accessible by the Clinton Health Access Initiative. Prior to CHAI’s work, HIV diagnosis and treatment for children in Cambodia was difficult and costly. In fact, when the Clinton Health Access Initiative began working in Cambodia in 2005, they found that only one in every 40 children was receiving treatment, compared to one in eight adults.

CHAI worked with the government of Cambodia and various other partners to improve pediatric HIV treatment and tests, as well as to strengthen their health system. As a result of this work, CHAI was able to lower the price of pediatric drugs, develop a child-friendly tablet, negotiate deals for specialized testing, train healthcare workers in pediatric care, and improve the national capacity to manage pediatric programs. Over a five-year period, CHAI’s programs led to a nine-fold increase in the number of children receiving access to treatment - from 70,000 children in 2006 to 647,000 in 2011. 

Thanks to these efforts, Basil was one of the first children in Cambodia to receive life-saving pediatric antiretroviral treatment. Today, he is known as a jokester and the “prince” of the New Hope for Cambodia Children orphanage where he lives. He also is currently dreaming of being a doctor, truck driver, or community leader. Dreams that would not be possible without CHAI giving him access to live-saving HIV medications.

Meet Linneth, an Expert Client Peer Counselor combatting stigma and helping others living with HIV and AIDS in Papua New Guinea.
Linneth is a proud Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) Expert Client Peer Counselor living in the remote Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Her job is part of an innovative HIV treatment model called the Rural Initiative: Patient and Provider Unified Approach. This Initiative, pioneered by CHAI and the Government of Papua New Guinea, collectively treats the family as the patient as a way to overcome the challenges related to HIV prevention, treatment, and stigmatization in rural parts of Papua New Guinea. Prior to CHAI’s Rural Initiative, there were no HIV treatment, care, or testing services available for HIV-positive patients, and stigma around HIV and AIDS was highly prevalent. 

Linneth, like so many others in her community with a high HIV prevalence, had been battling HIV with limited medical support and isolating social discrimination. This not only interfered with the effective treatment, care, and support she deserved, but it also hindered prevention efforts. The Rural Initiative changed all that by introducing a comprehensive, decentralized care system made up of local labs and family clinics that have dramatically improved treatment and prevention. But it’s the engagement of the entire family that is perhaps one of the most transformative aspects of the Initiative. Families are treated together and males are encouraged through counseling programs to be involved in the health of the entire family, particularly women. This holistic approach to HIV/AIDS has achieved remarkable success. Today, in areas where the Initiative is implemented, there is a nearly 85 percent long-term survival rate for people living with HIV; transmission of HIV from mother-to-child has decreased by 75 percent since 2007; and half of all male partners in the program have agreed to be tested - of which 90 percent were placed in HIV care and treatment programs. 

The Rural Initiative has helped bring high-quality HIV care and prevention to the people who need it the most. And it has enabled women like Linneth who once lived with HIV in the shadows to become a leader in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It also inspired Linneth to become a Peer Counselor and go out into her community and combat the stigma of HIV. She is so passionate about her work that she has taken in many newly diagnosed HIV patients to help them adjust and to share the importance of getting on and staying on HIV treatment

Meet Srey, a happy and healthy 10-year old in Cambodia who overcame extreme odds to be where she is today.   
When three-year-old Srey arrived at Maryknoll orphanage in Cambodia in October 2004, she weighed barely ten pounds. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis and malnutrition. Her condition was so severe that several hospitals did not want to treat her. After Srey began treatment, she made some improvements, but her condition still remained weak, so she was tested for HIV and diagnosed positive. At that time in Cambodia, drug prices were extremely high and it was difficult for Srey to access the antiretroviral treatment and care she desperately needed. The medicine was also physically difficult for her to take because it was not created with a child in mind. 

CHAI, together with Cambodia’s Ministry of Health, worked to lower the price of drugs, develop a child-friendly tablet, negotiate deals for specialized testing, train healthcare workers in pediatric care, and improve the national capacity to manage pediatric programs. This work gave Srey the life-saving treatment and care she deserved—treatment that she continues to rely on today. 

Srey is now a happy and healthy 10-year-old who does well in school and has a particular interest in computers. Srey, like Basil and so many others in Cambodia and around the world, is a shining example of why CHAI’s work is so important. Their future - and ours - depends on it.