Since its inception in the mid-1990s, UNAIDS and its scientific advisors have been misleading the public and policy makers regarding the scope and trend of the AIDS pandemic. In addition to these miscalculations UNAIDS has exaggerated the potential for HIV epidemics in “general” populations. As a self-avowed advocacy agency, UNAIDS deserves high marks for its dedicated and effective advocacy, but its understanding of HIV epidemiology is inconsistent with what has occurred. In mid-2005, UNAIDS issued a warning about the “quantum worsening” of the AIDS pandemic’s trajectory. Yet, in its 2007 update report in November, it finally admitted that global HIV incidence (new infections) peaked by the late 1990s and has been decreasing since.
However, UNAIDS’ either honest misunderstanding or deliberate distortions of HIV epidemiology should not be permitted to compromise the global response to this unprecedented pandemic. Global HIV incidence may well have peaked about a decade ago, but the global impact of close to 30 million persons living with HIV as of 2008, still requires an unprecedented global response. The international support that has been mobilized for the Global Fund should not be reduced since, even with the lowest possible HIV prevalence estimates, there will probably be insufficient funds to meet the needs of HIV treatment programs in resource-poor countries.
UNAIDS and AIDS programs outside of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), need to stop wasting billions of dollars annually on programs directed to the general public, especially all youth, who outside of SSA are at, minimal to no risk, of epidemic HIV transmission. The “glorious” myths that are still perpetuated by UNAIDS, that the AIDS pandemic is fueled or driven by poverty and discrimination and the “next waves” of HIV epidemics in some heterosexual populations are inevitable, will sooner or later, all have to be abandoned. If not, there may be a backlash from the public and policymakers to the detriment of AIDS programmes everywhere.