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Punitive Laws, Human Rights Violations Inhibiting Global AIDS Response, Global Commission On HIV And Law Report Says

“Punitive laws and human rights abuses are costing lives, wasting money, and stifling the global AIDS response,” according to a report (.pdf) released Monday by the independent Global Commission on HIV and the Law, which estimated the number of new HIV infections worldwide could be halved from 2.1 million to 1.2 million annually with changes in law and public policy, BMJ reports (Roehr, 7/9). The report, “based on 18 months of extensive research and analysis, as well as first-hand accounts from more than 1,000 people in 140 countries,” “finds evidence that governments in every region of the world have wasted the potential of legal systems in the fight against HIV,” according to the U.N. News Centre. The commission comprises “former heads of state and leading legal, human rights and HIV experts, and [is] supported by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),” the news service notes (7/9).

New Diagnostic Test For Drug-Resistant TB Allows 'New Approach' To Fight Disease

The widespread incidence of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) “calls for a new approach to TB in the developing world,” a Bloomberg editorial states. A “breakthrough test,” called Xpert MTB/RIF, “makes mass screening [for drug-resistant TB] feasible,” according to the editorial, which notes the test, developed by “California-based Cephied Inc. in collaboration with the non-profit Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” detects resistance to the TB drug rifampicin, provides results in two hours, and can be used without advanced laboratory facilities.

Opinion Pieces Address Family Planning Ahead Of London Summit

On World Population Day, observed on Wednesday, the U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will host the London Summit on Family Planning. The following are summaries of opinion pieces published ahead of the conference.

Former UNAIDS Executive Director Discusses Progress In AIDS Fight Ahead Of AIDS 2012 Conference

The 2012 International AIDS Conference, which will take place in Washington, D.C., from July 22-27, “will highlight a sense of optimism among top HIV researchers about stemming the spread of the virus around the globe,” according to PRI’s “The World.” In an audio report, anchor Lisa Mullins “talks to Peter Piot, former executive director of UNAIDS, about the new optimism and his career as a virus hunter.”

Lancet Series Reviewing Family Planning Evidence Published On Eve Of London Summit

A Lancet series on family planning, published Tuesday, “reviews the evidence for the effects of population and family planning on people’s well-being and the environment,” according to the series’ executive summary (7/10). One study in the series, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, “shows that fulfilling unmet contraception demand by women in developing countries could reduce global maternal mortality by nearly a third, a potentially great improvement for one of the world’s most vulnerable populations,” the New York Times reports (Tavernise, 7/9). A second study, led by John Cleland, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found “[c]ontraceptive use saves the lives of more than a quarter of million women each year, either from death in childbirth or unsafe abortions,” according to Agence France-Presse (7/10).

AFP Examines Rise In TB Cases In Madagascar

Agence France-Presse examines a rise in tuberculosis (TB) cases in Madagascar, writing, “Last year alone, 26,700 people contracted TB, according to the health ministry, a jump of more than 16 percent compared with 2009, when a military coup precipitated an economic crisis as donors suspended aid to one of the world’s poorest countries.” The news service notes, “Chronic malnutrition and poverty deepened, contributing to the spike in TB, experts say” and adds, “Even before the political crisis, Madagascar suffered one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.”

HIV Drug Coverage In Sub-Saharan Africa Continues To Improve But Not Sustainable, UNAIDS' Sidibe Says

At the end of 2011, 6.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were taking antiretroviral drugs, about 56 percent of the people in need in the region, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe noted in an interview last week, saying, “Ten years ago, nobody would have imagined that such a result would be possible,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Sidibe — visiting Paris ahead of the July 22-27 International AIDS Conference in Washington — said he was worried that African countries remained so dependent on foreign help,” the news service states. “With the exception of South Africa, 80 percent of Africans with HIV have access to drugs via funding from outside Africa. This is not sustainable. It’s even dangerous,” he said, according to the news service.

Family Planning Allows Women To Determine Their Future

With the London Summit on Family Planning scheduled to take place this week, Melinda Gates writes in a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog that family planning “can mean everything to so many of the women and families I meet.” She continues, “Providing family planning information and services to millions of women and girls in the poorest countries in the world gives them the opportunity to determine their own futures, and the best future for their children. As a woman and a mother, I can’t imagine anything more important.” Gates asks readers to watch and comment on a short video on the site (7/6).

Associated Press Examines 'Sense Of Optimism' In HIV Fight As AIDS 2012 Conference Approaches

Noting more than 20,000 international HIV researchers and activists will gather in Washington, D.C., for the AIDS 2012 conference later this month, the Associated Press writes that there is “a sense of optimism not seen in many years — hope that it finally may be possible to dramatically stem the spread of the AIDS virus.” “‘We want to make sure we don’t overpromise,’ Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease chief, told the Associated Press,” the news service notes, adding, “But, he said, ‘I think we are at a turning point.”

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