“For the first time in many years, a new message is on the lips of the people on the frontlines [of the AIDS response] — together, we will end AIDS,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Living” blog. He notes, “Just a decade ago, this very thought would have been dismissed,” and asks, “What has changed? Where has this hope come from?” He writes, “It comes from the resilience and steadfastness of the global community, led by people living with HIV, grandmothers, sisters, brothers, mothers, doctors, nurses, scientists, activists to halt the AIDS epidemic from defining our lives.” He provides a recap of the global response, highlighting results, investments, scientific progress, and the protection of human rights, and continues, “Above all, it is people who have changed the face of the AIDS epidemic.” He concludes, “We can end AIDS. We will end AIDS” (7/25).
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AIDS 2012 Plenary Speakers Call For Expanded Efforts To Provide HIV Treatment, Prevention To Women, Children
AIDS experts speaking at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Wednesday called for an expansion of HIV care and treatment to all women instead of focusing only on those who are pregnant, the Associated Press reports. While many countries have programs to treat pregnant women with HIV infection with antiretroviral treatment (ART) to lessen the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, UNICEF Senior Programme Adviser Chewe Luo said at the plenary session that most countries do not continue providing ART after mothers wean their infants, the news service notes, adding, “She praised Malawi for starting to do just that” through a treatment initiative called Plan B+ (Neergaard, 7/25). According to the Guardian, the plan would add an additional $300 million to global treatment costs, but “people with HIV on treatment become far less likely to infect their partners, as well as their babies, so the additional outlay may be considered a good investment.” Luo said discussions with PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria about funding such programs are underway, the newspaper notes (Boseley, 7/25). In a satellite session on Tuesday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “commended countries and their international partners for recent progress in preventing new HIV infections among children and saving mothers’ lives,” health-e news reports (7/25).
Noting new guidelines released at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., this week “call for everybody with HIV to be started on antiretroviral drugs [ARVs] as soon as they test positive for the virus,” NPR’s “Shots” blog examines “whether the goal is achievable, and who would pay for this enormous expansion in treatment.” “Right now about eight million people across the world are getting treated for HIV at a cost of around $17 billion a year,” the blog writes, adding, “Universal treatment would cost another $22 billion, by some estimates.” The blog notes Bernhard Schwartlander, director for evidence, strategy and results at UNAIDS, in a plenary speech at the conference on Tuesday “offered up several possible ways to raise the money,” including a tax on shipping and aviation fuel (Knox, 7/26).
Assistant Sec. Of Health Koh Addresses AIDS 2012 Plenary; HHS Sec. Sebelius Speaks At Washington Post Event
Speaking at the plenary session of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., on Monday, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh discussed the development and implementation of the United States’ first-ever comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, ABC News reports. “In the U.S., the burden of HIV is not shared equally, by population or region,” Koh said, according to the news service, which adds, “Addressing HIV-related health disparities is one of three overarching goals of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy, along with reducing new infections and increasing access to HIV care.” About 50,000 new HIV infections occur in the U.S. annually, ABC notes (Duwell, 7/25). According to his speech transcript (.pdf), Koh said, “National strategies are critical to effective country leadership on HIV. National strategies outline a framework for responding to HIV/AIDS in ways that reflect each country’s unique epidemiology, disease burden, and trends. And they demonstrate the importance of country ownership and the need to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS programs” (7/24).
“Much still needs to be done to get treatment to those who need it and to meet the UNAIDS-endorsed goal to achieve universal access by 2015, according to a new survey [.pdf] examining 25 HIV indicators assessing strategies, tools and policies to get the best HIV treatment to more people, sooner,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Mazzotta, 7/24). The report by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), in collaboration with UNAIDS, “show[s] that governments have made improvements to get better antiretroviral treatment (ART) to more people, but implementation of innovative community-based strategies is lagging in some countries,” according to an MSF press release (7/24).
OPINION: 'Win-Win Deals' Between Drug Companies, Purchasers Solution To Intellectual Property Debates
In this Foreign Policy opinion piece, Roger Bate, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in international health policy, discusses in detail the debates over intellectual property protection for drugs in relation to access to these drugs in developing countries and highlights a number of recent cases involving intellectual property legislation in the developing world. “Stricter TRIPS implementation is in the broad public interest because it increases incentives to innovate,” but “TRIPS is really a distraction from the job of increasing medicine access in the developing world,” he writes, concluding, “The solution lies in win-win deals between drug companies and institutional purchasers (domestic health agencies or foreign donors) that segment the market and tier prices sensibly. … [T]he real action is in making hybrid deals that recognize the political realities, and move on” (7/23).
Noting successes with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and PEPFAR, as well as other domestic and international programs, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) writes in a Politico opinion piece, “But this is not enough.” He continues, “The Obama administration has the opportunity to push for policies that can offer developing nations more access to generic ARV therapies,” including supporting intellectual property rules under the Trans-Pacific Partnership “that would help speed up — not impede — generic drug competition in countries like Vietnam.” Waxman adds, “We should also back efforts to give developing countries more flexibility in interpreting the World Trade Organization’s patent rules for medicines,” and the administration “should … promote the Medicines Patent Pool, a bold initiative to bring down prices of HIV medicines by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily license their patents and allow generic manufacturers to sell in developing countries.” Waxman concludes that the U.S. should be proud of its leadership on HIV/AIDS, “[b]ut our work is far from done. Supporting reliable access to generic medicines in the developing world is a much-needed step in getting us there” (7/24).
In this opinion piece in the Atlantic, Mark Harrington, co-founder and executive director of the Treatment Action Group (TAG), says that stronger leadership from the U.S. is needed in order to end the AIDS epidemic. Harrington notes that “earlier this year, [President Obama] proposed a shocking cut of $550 million to [PEPFAR], the most successful U.S.-funded global health program in history,” and highlights his absence from “the first International AIDS Conference to be held on American soil since … 1990.” He provides “a to do list the president should consider if he wants to walk the walk,” which includes “[f]ully fund[ing] PEPFAR and support[ing] its reauthorization in 2013,” “[f]ully support[ing] the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” “[r]eject[ing] the congressional ban on federal funding for needle exchange,” “[r]evis[ing] and revitaliz[ing] the National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” increasing funding for NIH, and “fully funding the research, prevention, care, and treatment” needed to end the epidemic (7/24).
In a round-up of events from the XIX International AIDS Conference on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Trevor DeWitt, new media communications officer for the foundation, notes that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Monday released results “showing broad gains in the number of people receiving HIV treatment” (7/23). According to a Global Fund press release, “The results show that 3.6 million people living with HIV are now receiving antiretroviral treatment under programs backed by the Global Fund, an increase of 600,000 since the end of 2010.” In addition, “Overall, 8.7 million lives have been saved by programs supported by the Global Fund since the organization was formed in 2002. The results include data through June 2012,” the press release states (7/23).
Jonathan Klein, board chair of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and co-founder and CEO of Getty Images, writes in a guest post on Forbes, “The U.S. government has long been the world’s most stalwart Global Fund supporter, and U.S. leadership continues to be the most effective tool in leveraging additional resources for the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, particularly at a time when budgets are universally tight.” He notes that “[f]or every $1 invested by U.S. taxpayers, the Global Fund leverages at least $2 more from international donors. And that money translates directly into lifesaving prevention and treatment.” Klein says, “Continued U.S. leadership is essential to maintain these gains and reach our health goals. … With sustained strong support, policymakers in Washington can continue to be responsible … for the uptick in people living healthy, productive lives.” Noting that U.S. foreign aid accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget, he concludes, “But it reaps enormous rewards in generating global good will, boosting national security, saving lives and creating a safer, more stable world for all of us” (7/23).