How do resource-constrained countries commit to universal health care

While December may be better known for religious holidays, the month is also home to two “global health” holidays. On Dec. 1, the world celebrates World AIDS Day. Since 1988, this has been a day to remember the more than 35 million people who have died of AIDS-related illnesses, and support those living with HIV.

And on Dec. 12, the world celebrates a newer holiday — Universal Health Coverage Day — which takes place on the anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s historic (and unanimous) 2012 endorsement of universal health coverage. The U.N. holiday calls attention to the growing global movement for universal health coverage, a goal the U.N. hopes to see the world achieve by 2030.

The road to AIDS care and health-care reforms were quite similar.

The two days may seem unrelated beyond a broad global health connection. But the movements that led to important reforms in treatment for AIDS and universal health care in some countries were remarkably similar. The political dynamics in each case were quite different, leading to vastly different outcomes.

In my recent book, “Achieving Access: Professional Movements and the Politics of Health Universalism,” I explore pioneering universal health care and AIDS treatment programs in Thailand and Brazil, as well as the health-care struggles in South Africa.

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