Global public health 2017 08 22() 1-12 doi 10.1080/17441692.2017.1365373
In the past decade, discourses about AIDS have taken a remarkable, and largely unquestioned, turn. Whereas mobilisations for treatment scale-up during the 2000s were premised on perceptions of an ‘epidemic out of control’, we have repeatedly been informed in more recent years that an end to AIDS is immanent. This new discourse and its resulting policies are motivated by post-recession financial pressures, a changing field of global institutions, and shifting health and development priorities. These shifts also reflect a biomedical triumphalism in HIV prevention and treatment, whereby shorter term, privatised, technological, and ‘cost-effective’ interventions are promoted over long-term support for antiretroviral treatment. To explore these changes, we utilise Treichler’s [(1987). How to have theory in an epidemic: Cultural chronicles of AIDS. Durham, NC: Duke University Press] view of AIDS as an ‘epidemic of signification’ to develop a review of ‘End of AIDS’ discourses in recent years. We use this review to investigate the political and philanthropic interests served by efforts to rebrand and re-signify the epidemic. We also hold up these discourses against the realities of treatment access in resource-poor countries, where ‘Ending AIDS’ has not heralded the end of an epidemic per se, but rather the end of external support for treatment programmes, highlighting new difficulties for sustaining treatment in this new era of the epidemic.