What is 20×20?
20×20 is a global campaign to scale up access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for at least 20 million people by year 2020. Currently only 12 million people out of 35 million are on ART, which is far too low. Millions of people still die of AIDS-related causes every year because they cannot get the medicine they need.
The chief aim of 20×20 is to spark a renewed vision—that investing in treatment scale up will yield humanitarian and economic benefits that far outweigh the initial costs. This campaign seeks to change the global mindset and reinterpret the AIDS response not as a burden, but as a smart long-term investment that will pave the way to ending AIDS, boosting economic growth and saving millions of lives.
Reducing New Infections
So far, treatment is the most powerful tool we have that can help us achieve Global AIDS Control. Scientific studies show that HIV positive people who are consistently on ART are more than 96% less likely to pass the virus to another person.1,2 There’s no longer any doubt that treatment as prevention works.
On the global scale, treatment as prevention will drastically reduce the number of new HIV infections, but only if we make it accessible to at least 20 million HIV positive people. UNAIDS estimates that annually 1.6 million people die of AIDS-related causes and about 2.3 million people become newly infected.3 Thus, the total number of people living with HIV grows by 700,000 each year. If we bring the number of new infections closer to 0, we will have AIDS under control.
Promoting Economic Stability
Beyond addressing AIDS as a global crisis, individual countries can also benefit economically from treatment scale up under 20×20. Economic models in sub-Saharn countries suggest that AIDS can decrease the rate of GDP growth by up to 2.6% per year.4 This means a country like Zambia is potentially losing close to $1 billion in GDP growth every year due to the AIDS epidemic. By investing in treatment scale up countries can realize substantial improvements in economic growth and stability, with a healthier, more productive workforce.
Fulfilling a Moral Obligation
Lastly, we have a moral obligation to reach 20×20 for the sake of lifting up the most vulnerable members of our society so that they can have a chance at a better future. Beyond the numbers and statistic are stories of people like Poonam, a 12-year-old HIV positive orphan girl from Mumbai, India who started ART in 2013 at an AHF-supported site. Thanks to lifesaving treatment she will live to celebrate her 18th birthday in 2020. She will have many decades ahead of her to get an education, work and some day start a family.
Whether millions of people like Poonam stay alive and well enough to be productive members of society and care for their loved ones depends on what we all decide to do about AIDS today. 20×20 is not an abstraction: if we all commit to getting at least 20 million people on treatment by 2020, we will take a conscious, critical step toward ending AIDS.