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.
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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.”
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).
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.
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).
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.”
The Financial Times examines efforts by “Ethiopian policymakers, faced with a rapidly expanding population and rising numbers of HIV/AIDS infections,” to integrate family planning into HIV counseling and testing programs in the country. “When counseling women on reproductive health or child immunization, family planning clinics can also discuss HIV testing and prevention, particularly condom use, as well as introducing pregnant women to mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention services,” the newspaper notes.
In a special series called “AIDS: A Turning Point,” NPR reports on global progress against HIV/AIDS ahead of the AIDS 2012 conference taking place in Washington, D.C., this month. As part of the series, NPR’s “Morning Edition” examines Botswana’s response to the epidemic, writing, “A decade ago, Botswana was facing a national crisis as AIDS appeared on the verge of decimating the country’s adult population. Now, Botswana provides free, life-saving AIDS drugs to almost all of its citizens who need them.” According to the show, “Part of the reason Botswana’s HIV treatment program has been effective is that the country moved relatively quickly to address the epidemic” and “over the course of the epidemic, Botswana has steadily increased its own spending on HIV” (7/9).
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.