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International AIDS Conference Kicks Off In Washington, D.C.

The XIX International AIDS Conference opened in Washington, D.C., on Sunday and “is expected to draw 25,000 people, including politicians, scientists and activists, as well as some of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV who will tell their stories,” Agence France-Presse reports (Sheridan, 7/22). “Researchers, doctors and patients attending the world’s largest AIDS conference are urging the world’s governments not to cut back on the fight against the epidemic when it is at a turning point,” the Associated Press writes, adding, “There is no cure or vaccine yet, but scientists say they have the tools to finally stem the spread of this intractable virus — largely by using treatment not just to save patients but to make them less infectious, too” (Neergaard, 7/22). “New breakthroughs in research will be announced, as will new efforts by governments and organizations to reduce the spread of HIV, to treat those who have it, and to work, eventually, toward a vaccine and a cure,” the Seattle Times writes (Tate, 7/22). According to the Washington Post’s “Blog Post,” three remaining challenges to be addressed at the conference include: “More research into treatment and prevention, and more ways to deliver treatments”; reaching marginalized populations, such as men who have sex with men and sex workers; and “[i]ncreasing funding for PEPFAR and other anti-AIDS programs” (Khazan, 7/20).

International AIDS Conference A Call For Global Solidarity

Noting the 2010 reversal of the HIV travel and immigration ban allowing the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to be held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, “It is so exciting to host this conference at such a pivotal time in the history of the AIDS response,” and adds, “At no other time in history has our global leadership been more important than it is right now.” With nearly 25,000 people from about 200 countries expected to gather in Washington, D.C., for the conference July 22-27, “These leaders in the global HIV and AIDS fight will showcase their incredible efforts and achievements on our own soil” and “have the opportunity to develop new solutions in addressing the ongoing challenges posed by HIV/AIDS in our own country and around the world,” Lee writes.

Health Gains In Rwanda Illustrate Value Of Universal Health Insurance

Noting that the Supreme Court last week upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, “mov[ing] the United States closer to the goal of health coverage for all,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tina Rosenberg reports on health care coverage in Rwanda in this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog. She writes, “The point is not that Americans should envy Rwanda’s health system,” but “Rwanda’s experience illustrates the value of universal health insurance.” “‘Its health gains in the last decade are among the most dramatic the world has seen in the last 50 years,’ said Peter Drobac, the director in Rwanda for the Boston-based Partners in Health, which works extensively with the Rwandan health system,” she continues, and she adds, “It couldn’t have happened without health insurance.”

Consider Rural Women In Family Planning Services

In the third post in a series by Marie Stopes International published on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Mukanga Sindazi, the outreach team leader with Marie Stopes in Zambia, discusses his work traveling through the rural Central Province to educate women and men about family planning and provide modern contraceptives. “At the family planning summit in London next week, I hope world leaders will recognize the challenges facing rural women,” he writes, concluding, “So our hope is that we can all come together to remember the girls and women of the countryside. Our hope is that they can imagine a world where, however isolated your community, having contraception is a usual thing — and not a luxury” (7/5).

Poor Collaboration, Lack Of Information Major Barriers To Implementing Family Planning Methods

Ahead of the London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examines barriers to contraceptive use in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Poor collaboration in recent years means that donors have not been aligned and, as such, there has been inadequate, inconsistent and unpredictable funding for family planning programs globally,” he states, adding, “The other recurring theme of existing barriers is the lack of information at all levels — global, national, and community level — about the health benefits of planning and spacing children and the available methods to do that.” He concludes, “[U]nderstanding the problem and barriers to planning a family is the first step in establishing an ambitious yet achievable goal and mobilizing the global community behind it” (7/5).

Trade Agreements Could Harm Access To Antiretroviral Drugs In Asia, Pacific, Experts And Activists Warn

“Pressure on developing countries to adopt clauses affecting intellectual property rights could limit access to generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in Asia and the Pacific, experts and activists warn,” PlusNews reports. According to Steven Kraus, director of the UNAIDS program in Asia and the Pacific region, only about one-third of the people in need of treatment in the region receive it, and the long-term sustainability of even that proportion will be challenging in the current economic climate, the news service notes. Kraus said World Trade Organization (WTO) member states should take advantage of flexibilities under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to manufacture and procure generic versions of medications “to ensure sustainability and the significant scale-up of HIV services to reach people most in need,” PlusNews continues.

Donor Governments Need To Conduct More Post-Market Oversight Of Generic Medicines

The WHO and FDA approve drugs to treat malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases in low- and middle-income countries, but “some of the manufacturers, predominantly Chinese and Indian firms, may be knowingly producing” poor quality medicines, according to “the conclusion of my research teams’ studies, published this week in the journal Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine,” Roger Bate, resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and lead author of the studies, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. “With little or no oversight, these companies may be cutting corners in the manufacturing process — or worse, watering down the active ingredient in their drugs, perhaps when the price of the raw material spikes and supply becomes harder to obtain,” he states, adding, “By exposing people to insufficient doses of the active ingredient, the drugs may also accelerate drug resistance and cause tremendous harm to whole populations in the long run.”