Campus & Community

Broad vision required to fight HIV

2 min read

Harvard Medical School’s Kim urges more rethinking of health, human rights policies

A major new public health campaign focused on AIDS is needed in the wake of the World Health Organization’s “3 by 5” campaign, which forced a new approach to fight the deadly disease, according to a former WHO official instrumental in the 3 by 5 program.

Jim Yong Kim, a Harvard Medical School associate professor who now heads Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities, said the adoption of the 3 by 5 program in 2003 by WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shifted the emphasis from AIDS prevention to a massive program to treat 3 million people with powerful anti-retroviral drugs by the end of 2005.

The ambitious goal forced a shakeup of the normal way of doing business with regard to AIDS, Kim said, and prompted a host of criticism from those who thought the program misguided or too ambitious.

But Kim, who spoke at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Snyder Auditorium on March 2, said it’s OK to set lofty goals even if they are ultimately not met because much good can be achieved along the way.

“We needed a goal that changed the way we worked next week and next month, and for some reason this did it,” Kim said.

Kim’s talk, “Rethinking Health and Human Rights in the Age of Universal Access to HIV Treatment, Care and Prevention,” was part of the ongoing Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series at the Harvard School of Public Health.

School of Public Health Dean Barry Bloom introduced Kim to a packed auditorium. Bloom said Kim, who won a 2003 MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellowship, was instrumental in pushing the 3 by 5 program through when he worked as the head of WHO’s infectious disease unit.