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Last week, Nigeria hosted the African AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Summit in its capital city, Abuja. The summit was attended by numerous participants, including heads of state, government officials, members of the civil society, donor and UN agencies and program implementers from throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of the summit was to review the achievements made toward the landmark Abuja 2001 agreements and identify gaps and constraints to achieving those objectives and the Millennium Development Goals.

According to AllAfrica.com, the major outcomes of the summit include:

  • Leaders’ reiteration of commitment to devote 15% of national budgets to improving the health care system; and
  • Resolution passed declaring that by 2010, 80% of those who need it should have access to HIV/AIDS treatment, including ARVs.

Although it is notable the level of political commitment and idealism showed at the summit and reflected in these goals, in the end setting such high standards may undermine the great deal of progress that has already been made and will no doubt continue through the decade. As my colleague Michael Clemens argued in a previous post, by adopting goals that are irrelevant and/or unachievable in poor country contexts (such as the MDGs and the WHO’s 3x5 initiative), many of the great development successes - including the expansion of access to ARVs - will likely be labeled failures. There is no doubt that tremendous mobilization and commitment will be required to revitalize the health systems in many of these countries and to meet the growing need for ARVs, but let us not forget to also celebrate the heroic work that has already been done.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.