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Nick Henderson was a participant on the Youth  Stop AIDS Speaker tour 2014. He is currently a member of the European AIDS Treatment Group and the Youth Stop AIDS Steering Committee. In this post, to mark the official launch of Youth Stop AIDS Missing Medicines campaign, he details how a cure for HIV & AIDS can become a reality.

I often think about the day when the cure comes. It won’t be a bolt from the blue, but  the culmination of a slow but steady stream of good news. Promising lab results one  year, successful human trials a few years later. A large scale study that stopped  early because it was so successful, and then, eventually, a pharmaceutical company  will announce the cure is going into production. It’s like waiting patiently for  Christmas, but for over a decade.

NHS planners will have been involved long before that. Various committees will have  discussed the best way to roll out the cure. They will have calculated the cost/benefit of vastly reduced numbers of Anti-Retroviral (ARV) treatments versus the proposed cost of the cure.  Health authorities will negotiate with the drug company and a price will be,  eventually, agreed upon.

Letters will start falling on doorsteps across Britain. “Your cure appointment will be at  10am” on a day that, like diagnosis day, no one will forget. Elton John will share a  podium with the Prime Minister. Maybe William and Kate will visit a clinic and TV  cameras will capture the emotions of the men, women and children who will walk out  of clinics across Britain free of HIV.

For many people who have lived more than half  their lives positive, it will be the end  of something huge. For some, the impact on their health will remain long after the  daily pills are gone, while others will simply move on like recovery from any other  condition.

We don’t need to imagine too hard how the cure for HIV will be rolled out. In fact we  already have Hepatitis C as a precedent. A near perfect drug; needed by hundreds  of thousands, held hostage by the broken pharmaceutical system and an NHS  without unlimited resources. There’s no national push to wipe out Hep C in Britain;  instead there are ever growing numbers with an active virus causing damage in their  bodies and being spread to others, while the drug Sofosbuvir sits out of reach behind  its $100,000 price tag.

The nakedly commercialised system of drug patents puts profits before health time  and time again, for disease after disease. We live in an incredible age of medical  technology and an understanding of the human body that was unimaginable even a  decade ago, yet this broken drug development system awards more financial gain to  fixes for hayfever than treatments for TB.

The problem is not private enterprise, but that we trust the development of life saving drugs  to treat global epidemics to companies that put shareholders before patients.  The result is  that the drugs we have are too expensive, and the drugs we need just aren’t there.

The Missing Medicines campaign takes a different approach. It says we  should let scientists be scientists and give  incentives to fix the most pressing problems, not just the ones that make money. As a  nation, as a European Union and as a world we can prioritise health research in a strategic  way under the guidance of the World Health Organisation. If every nation committed just  0.01% of GDP to an international patent free medicines fund, we could systematically wipe  out disease after disease after disease.

But that’s a cost/benefit analysis the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t want to see.

This World AIDS  Day, don’t just ask your MP to wear a red ribbon. It’s not enough just  to be “aware” of the problem anymore. Ask your elected representatives to do  something about it. Ask them to support Youth Stop AIDS  Missing Medicines  campaign, and let’s bring that day closer all across the world; when letters will fall on  doorsteps for that long awaited appointment with the cure.

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