Can the Success of HIV Scale-Up Advance the Global Chronic NCD Agenda?

Palma, Anton M.; Rabkin, Miriam; Nuwagaba-Biribonwoha, Harriet; Bongomin, Pido; Dlamini, Xolisile; Lukhele, Nomthandazo; Kidane, Altaye; El-Sadr, Wafaa Mahmoud

Noncommunicable diseases (NCD) are the leading causes of death and disability worldwide but have received suboptimal attention and funding from the global health community. Although the first United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) for NCD in 2011 aimed to stimulate donor funding and political action, only 1.3% of official development assistance for health was allocated to NCD in 2015, even less than in 2011. In stark contrast, the UNGASS on human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in 2001 sparked billions of dollars in funding for HIV and enabled millions of HIV-infected individuals to access antiretroviral treatment. Using an existing analytic framework, we compare the global responses to the HIV and NCD epidemics and distill lessons from the HIV response that might be utilized to enhance the global NCD response. These include: 1) further educating and empowering communities and patients to increase demand for NCD services and to hold national governments accountable for establishing and achieving NCD targets; and 2) evidence to support the feasibility and effectiveness of large-scale NCD screening and treatment programs in low-resource settings. We conclude with a case study from Swaziland, a country that is making progress in confronting both HIV and NCD.

In September 2011, the United Nations (UN) convened a UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on noncommunicable diseases (NCD). The event was the second UN High Level Meeting ever held for a health issue, following the successful UNGASS on human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in 2001. Modeled after its predecessor, the 2011 meeting was intended to catalyze a response to what the World Health Organization (WHO) called an epidemic of “silent killers” that were the leading causes of death and disability worldwide, yet receive little attention from the global health community [1].

Looking back to the prior UNGASS on HIV/AIDS a decade earlier, the NCD meeting aspired to similar goals: rallying multisectoral and cross-national partnerships; stimulating robust donor funding; spurring ambitious targets and commitments on the part of national governments; and catalyzing rapid scale-up of NCD services in resource-limited settings [2]. Advocates highlighted similarities between chronic NCD and HIV/AIDS, including a stark mismatch between the burden of disease and available funding, and the need for programmatic innovation, continuity care, and health systems strengthening 3, 4 and 5.

The UNGASS on NCD was successful at producing a Political Declaration to combat NCD [6], and many countries affirmed a commitment to ambitious NCD targets and to implementing evidence-based “best buys” 7 and 8. Yet 5 years later, the global NCD response has languished in what some have called an environment of “malignant neglect” [9]. Despite the fact that NCD account for 37% of disability-adjusted life years in low-income countries [10], only 1.3% of official development assistance for health was allocated to NCD in 2015 [11], a proportion that decreased between 2011 and 2015 [12]. Few resource-limited countries have operational national NCD strategies or adequate NCD services, awareness of and treatment-seeking rates for NCD have not improved [13], and the vast majority of people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease remain undiagnosed and untreated 14 and 15. In contrast, in the years that followed the 2001 UNGASS, global spending on HIV increased by billions of dollars and the number of people initiating antiretroviral treatment (ART) in low- and middle-income countries soared from 400,000 in 2003 to nearly 17 million in 2015 [16].

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Palma_et_al_Global_Heart_2016.pdf Palma_et_al_Global_Heart_2016.pdf application/pdf 184 KB Download File

Also Published In

More About This Work

Academic Units
International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs
Published Here
March 8, 2017