A Lancet editorial discusses the agenda of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington last month and asks how the success of the conference will be judged at the XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), to be held in Melbourne, Australia. “The return of the conference to the U.S. after 22 years, [was not only] a focus for celebration, but also provided a platform for vocal objection to the ban on injecting drug users and sex workers from entering the U.S.,” the editorial states, adding that “the absence of these groups from the meeting is rightly seen by many as a hindrance to developing approaches to combat the epidemic in regions where the disease is concentrated in these populations.”
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
In this post in Global Post’s “Global Pulse” blog, Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, and Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at amfAR, write that “the world needs a business plan to end AIDS.” They continue, “To us, ending the epidemic means drastically reducing new HIV infections, while preserving the health of everyone living with HIV,” adding, “This is an ambitious vision, and it is achievable if we make smart use of the HIV prevention and treatment options available today, while continuing the search for a vaccine and a cure. It will require clear priorities, ambitious and achievable targets, sustained funding and effective ways to hold ourselves accountable for progress.”
“Over the 30 years of the AIDS epidemic, the disease has had a profound impact on every country in the world,” and “in each country, that impact is experienced a different way,” Vivek Anand, CEO of the Humsafar Trust, and Kenneth Mayer, medical research director of Fenway Health and co-director of the Fenway Institute, write in this post in Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” blog. “But one reality remains: In nearly every country, HIV rates are disproportionately high in gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM) who do not identify as either,” they continue, adding, “The full scope of the epidemic simply cannot be addressed until we recognize that there is no country in the world where we can overlook the MSM population.”
“Former President Bill Clinton delivered an energizing ‘call to action’ at the closing session of [the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)], encapsulating the high hopes and the sobering challenges facing the fight against global HIV/AIDS,” Janet Fleischman, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) Global Health Policy Center, writes in the center’s “Smart Global Health” blog. “In order to build the necessary political momentum going forward, he focused on certain key areas: supporting greater commitments from affected countries, driving down the costs of treatment, and creating innovative financing mechanisms to accompany traditional donor funding,” she notes, and highlights key messages from his Closing Session address (7/31). A webcast of the session is available online from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Health care, taxes, energy, favorite flavor of ice cream — it seems our elected leaders must disagree at every turn. But one issue that has so far repulsed the partisan pressures of the times was highlighted [at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)] in our nation’s capital last week: the fight against HIV/AIDS,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in an opinion piece in “The Week.” He says, “The conference was a celebration of the remarkable success made because of this leadership, and a call for continued support” in the response against HIV/AIDS. Noting he moderated a panel discussion with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on congressional bipartisanship at the conference, Frist continues, “I witnessed what I felt to be an accurate portrayal of how we got to the point where we could celebrate so many successes. Fundamental to the progress has been bipartisanship.”
The XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place last week in Washington, D.C., “ignited momentum to shift from ‘fighting AIDS’ to ‘ending AIDS,'” Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health adviser at Oxfam International, and Urvarshi Rajcoomer, policy and advocacy adviser at Oxfam in South Africa, write in a Mail & Guardian opinion piece. “Oxfam believes investing in health systems such as infrastructure and health worker, drug supply chain and health information systems, is a critical prerequisite to ending AIDS,” they write. However, “to make this a reality,” pharmaceutical companies, donor governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank “must now do their part,” they continue.
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”
In this post in BMJ’s “Yankee Doodling,” Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist at RTI International and an associate editor for the journal, reflects on the possibility of achieving an AIDS-free generation “if somehow we succeeded in getting all HIV positive people in the world identified and under long term treatment.” He writes that while there has been “astonishing progress against AIDS,” “two concerns immediately arise: the magnitude of the work remaining to find and continuously treat all those infected, and the confusion between that treatment (even if it is somehow universally successful) and actual eradication of the disease.” He concludes, “It is a rosy scenario, but even if it came true it still would not spell the end of the HIV story,” because “[w]e have no vaccine, and the virus keeps mutating” (8/14).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog examines how the “U.S. travel bans on people involved in sex work and people who have used illegal drugs … kept many of the people at highest risk from coming to the [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)]” in Washington, D.C., last month. “The result, observers said afterward, was a larger conference with fewer sex workers than had brought their first-hand experiences and concerns to Vienna and Mexico City,” according to the blog. Carlos Laudari, senior technical adviser for HIV AIDS prevention at Pathfinder, “and others said those in absentia were not the only ones disempowered; the loss of sex worker and drug user input on how to realize the goals of treatment as prevention, on barriers to funding, testing, health care access, and for that matter, on the difference between sex work and sex trafficking — commonly, and erroneously equated — weakened the dialogue and the action they were intended to inform,” the blog writes and quotes several other advocates (Barton, 8/8).
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Healthy Living” blog, John-Manuel Andriote, a journalist and author living with HIV, writes, “For all of us living with HIV infection — Oct. 27 will mark seven years since my own diagnosis — the question we face daily, hopefully more consciously and deliberately than most, is how shall we live, knowing as we do that we will most assuredly die one day?” Reflecting on the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place in Washington last month, he continues, “An AIDS-free generation is certainly a worthy goal,” but “even if tens of billions of additional dollars are allocated to address HIV/AIDS, even if the Republicans don’t succeed in inflicting their Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ upon the nation and the world, the question will continue to be what it has been for 31 years … Will we have the political will to end AIDS?”