Azam Ismail, President of Aberdeen Stop AIDS, reacts to the fantastic news that the UK Government have committed £1 billion to the Global Fund.
I first joined the Student Stop AIDS Campaign two years ago. At the time, I was fairly new to HIV/AIDS activism, having only recently got on the bandwagon after speaking with my college Biology teacher who was an activist himself. I had volunteered for other HIV/AIDS organisations before, but most of my responsibilities then involved outreach work and promoting safer sex among youth. It was a very comfortable job, and I felt like I really did help make an impact, even if it was just at a local level.
Student Stop AIDS was a whole different ball game. This was a network of students working towards equal access to HIV medicines through street campaigning, lobbying MPs and engaging with various media outlets. They were working towards making an impact at a global level. Of course, when I first joined, I was sceptical. I couldn’t really fathom how a relatively small group of students could ever help influence policy makers’ decisions when it came to things like funding a Global HIV response.
Nevertheless, I was inspired by their work. Their passion for HIV activism clearly exuded in every campaign they worked on, and working with them has sparked a passion in me to work towards our common goal of zero discrimination, zero new infections and zero AIDS-related deaths. And so began my journey with the campaign. The past few years have been a roller coaster ride for me. I did things I never thought I would (like skip along a square full of people dressed up as a Robin Hood-esque Nick Clegg, calling for support for a Robin Hood Tax) and I learned a lot of valuable skills such as how to lobby MPs. It was hard work, and at times I wondered if any of the effort was really worth it. All that doubt went away after seeing the impact the campaign has had over the years.
As a campaign, we have had great successes before – like helping make the Medicines Patent Pool a reality, but the one I am proudest of would have to be the recent announcement by Justine Greening that the UK will commit to £1b for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria over the next 3 years. When I first heard the news, I was ecstatic. All of the work done towards each campaign we ever did – from the #WhyStopNow campaign to #15by15 – culminated to this huge success. I was almost in a state of disbelief, but as the news sunk in, I realised just how big a deal this was for everyone involved.
The Global Fund has already saved millions of lives and yesterday’s announcement will help turn that success into long lasting change that brings us one step closer to a world free from AIDS, TB and malaria.
The UK’s pledge of £1 billion over three years will allow:
- Lifesaving antiretroviral therapy for 750,000 people living with HIV
- 32 million more insecticide-treated nets to prevent the transmission of malaria
- TB treatment for over a million more people
There is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment you get after years of campaigning, boiling down to a success such as this. All my doubts and scepticism from before dissipated away – I know now that in campaigning, every little bit helps. We are a step closer to a world free from AIDS, TB and malaria, but the work shouldn’t stop here. The world needs young, enthusiastic activists to keep the response going, and if anything, I hope to inspire a new generation of activists, much like how the Student Stop AIDS Campaign inspired me to be the change.