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Obama Renews U.S. Commitment To Ending AIDS In World AIDS Day Speech

President Barack Obama on Thursday renewed the U.S. commitment to ending HIV/AIDS in a speech marking World AIDS Day, and was joined by former presidents Bill Clinton, who participated by video, and George W. Bush, who spoke from Tanzania with that country’s President, Jakaya Kikwete, the Independent reports (Popham, 12/1). According to the Associated Press, Obama announced U.S. “goal[s] of getting antiretroviral drugs to two million more people around the world by the end of 2013,” bringing the total to six million people, and “to 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent them from passing the virus to their children.” The news agency continues, “Despite Obama’s more ambitious goals,” which build on existing PEPFAR programs, “the plan’s budget is not expected to increase. Instead, officials said the expanded targets would be funded through savings achieved by making the program more efficient and cutting the costs of treatment” (Pace, 12/1).

Percentage Of Pregnant Women Living With HIV In South Africa Increases, Survey Suggests

The percentage of pregnant women living with HIV in South Africa “has inched up to 30.2 percent from 29.4 percent last year,” according to the annual National Antenatal Sentinel HIV and Syphilis Prevalence survey released by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in Pretoria on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports (11/29). The survey “sampled over 32,000 pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in October last year,” South Africa’s Times Live notes (11/30).

Life Expectancy Rising In Afghanistan With Infant, Maternal Mortality Declining, Survey Shows

“Afghans are living longer, fewer infants are dying and more women are surviving childbirth because health care has dramatically improved around the country in the past decade, according to a national survey released Wednesday,” the Associated Press/Guardian reports. The survey, conducted by the Afghan Health Ministry in 2010 and “sponsored and funded by international organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the U.S. government and the British Department for International Development,” “indicates that increased access to health care in Afghanistan, more hospitals and clinics, and more trained health care workers and doctors have significantly contributed to an overall improvement in the health of most Afghans,” the AP writes (11/30).

Al Jazeera Examines HIV, Drug Use Among Women In Northeast India

Al Jazeera examines HIV among women in India’s Manipur state, particularly in the district of Churachandpur, where local non-governmental organizations “say more than one-quarter of the women use some kind of drugs and suffer from HIV; many, due to a lack of financial opportunities, will end up turning to” sex work to obtain money to buy drugs, the news agency writes. There are no long-term treatment facilities for people who use drugs or those living with HIV in the area, and there are no official statistics on how many women are living with HIV and using drugs, Al Jazeera reports. “The United Nations says these women can no longer be ignored,” the news agency notes. Charles Gilks of UNAIDS India said the number of affected women must be determined and then organizations need to establish “interventions which those women can easily and reliably reach,” Al Jazeera reports (Suri, 11/30).

U.N. Progress Report On AIDS Stresses Advances In Treatment, Prevention, Warns About Declining Funding

“Global progress in both preventing and treating HIV emphasizes the benefits of sustaining investment in HIV/AIDS over the longer term,” according to a new report from the WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS, which also “indicates that increased access to HIV services resulted in a 15 percent reduction of new infections over the past decade and a 22 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths in the last five years,” a WHO press release reports (11/30). The report, titled “Progress report 2011: Global HIV/AIDS response,” notes that “[a]s capacity at all levels increases, programs are becoming more effective and efficient,” but “financial pressures on both domestic and foreign assistance budgets are threatening the impressive progress to date. Recent data indicating that HIV funding is declining is a deeply troubling trend that must be reversed for the international community to meet its commitments on HIV” (11/30).

GlobalPost Examines U.S. Response To HIV/AIDS ‘Scientific Advances, Economic Realities’

GlobalPost examines the “collision of scientific advances vs. economic realities” in the fight against HIV/AIDS in a special report as part of its “Healing the World” series. “Thirty years after the discovery of AIDS, scientists believe for the first time that they now have the tools to beat back the deadly virus. … But the gloomy global economic situation, and recent scale-backs in HIV funding around the world, have cast great doubt as to whether policymakers will take advantage of the combination of new prevention tools to fight AIDS,” the article states, noting that “President Obama is expected on Thursday — World AIDS Day — to talk about his administration’s next steps on AIDS, … his first major speech on AIDS as president” (Donnelly, 11/30).

NIAID Director Fauci Discusses Moving Forward In AIDS Fight

In this interview with GlobalPost’s John Donnelly, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, discusses “his perspective of the fight against AIDS at this moment, and how discoveries by scientists can now be best used.” Speaking about the “convergence of prevention approaches,” Fauci said, “There is now an enthusiasm and an excitement if we can implement some of these scientific advances, we can have a major impact in turning around the trajectory of the epidemic. The bottom line is we are pushing these advances in implementation so that we see the light at the end of the tunnel” (11/30).

Treatment Cost Savings Under PEPFAR Can Be Re-Invested To Increase ARV Reach

In this post in the “Health Affairs Blog,” Matthew Kavanagh, director of U.S. policy and advocacy at Health Global Access Project (GAP), and Marguerite Thorp, a research assistant at Harvard Medical School, examine how HIV/AIDS treatment funding under PEPFAR has “fallen significantly since 2008 in both absolute dollars and as…

South Africa ‘Witnessing First Steps Of AIDS-Free Generation’

In this Business Day opinion piece, Donald Gips, the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, examines progress made in the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS, writing that, through the coordination of governments, civil society, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), educational institutions, and researchers from around the world, “we now have the tools that allow us for the first time to set the goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation — when virtually no children are born with the virus; we have effective and comprehensive education and prevention strategies that help to reduce risk; and those who are infected with HIV have access to treatment that helps prevent them from developing AIDS and transmitting the virus.”

Thousands Gather In Senegal For Second International Conference On Family Planning

“Thousands gathered in Senegal [Tuesday] for the opening of the second International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), the largest meeting of its kind, which will run until December 2, 2011,” the Foreign Policy Association blog reports (Clifford, 11/29). The meeting “will aim to push forward an agenda for broad family planning access and support around the world,” according to the Accra Mail (11/29). “The historic four-day conference features more than 140 plenaries, sessions and panels that will share latest research, proven strategies, and lessons learned in addressing the massive need for contraception worldwide,” the Foreign Policy Association blog writes, adding, “Participants will seek to galvanize greater political and financial support, hold governments accountable for their commitments, and champion contraceptive innovation and access” (11/29).