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
“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.”
In the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, notes that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the XIX International AIDS Conference in July that all women should be able to decide “when and whether to have children” and that PEPFAR, in a guidance [.pdf] released last week, said, “Voluntary family planning should be part of comprehensive quality care for persons living with HIV,” and referred to family planning as a human right. “Then, in bold type, they punctuated it with, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities,’” she writes. “They take it a step further with a caveat that before anyone decides they’d like their program to have anything to do with family planning, they had best consult relevant U.S. legal counsel first,” she adds. “To be fair, they do say that PEPFAR programs can just refer women to a different program that offers family planning,” but those programs are not always available, Sippel writes, adding, “So the suggestion is flawed from the start.”
MedPage Today examines recent HIV prevention developments, in a 2010 year in review piece, beginning with the announcement at the International AIDS Conference in July that a microbicide gel used by women before and after sex reduced HIV infection by 39 percent.
“A declaration calling for global support to end the AIDS epidemic was announced [Tuesday] by the International AIDS Society (IAS) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),” an IAS press release (.pdf) reports. “The ‘Washington, D.C. Declaration,’ which seeks to build broad support for beginning to end the AIDS epidemic through a nine-point action plan, will be the official declaration of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012),” which “will take place in Washington, D.C., from 22 to 27 July 2012” (7/10).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog examines questions surrounding the use of the antiretroviral Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection among people at high risk, as studies released and panel discussions held last week at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) “raised concerns about the drug’s effect on the future of the AIDS fight.” According to the blog, “Leaders in the fight against AIDS are trying to work through these issues and figure out the best way to make use of Truvada as prevention.” The blog notes that the WHO last week “released a set of guidelines for how to use PrEP in demonstration projects” and quotes AVAC Director Mitchell Warren, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, amfAR Vice President and Director of Public Policy Chris Collins, and Black AIDS Institute President and CEO Phill Wilson (Judem, 7/27).
“Charged by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with developing a blueprint for the next phase of the [U.S. government's] involvement in the fight against HIV and AIDS, [U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby] … will lead an interagency effort to give clearer meaning to the term, ‘AIDS-free generation,’ and provide a basis for programming,” Sharon Stash, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) Global Health Policy Center, writes in the CSIS “Smart Global Health” blog. “Clearly the notion of an ‘AIDS-free generation’ within our reach is a powerful one,” she writes, and asks, “Is the meaning it inspires powerful enough to attract and keep the attention of national policymakers, already burdened with competing priorities in a tight economic environment?” (7/29).
Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, published three new blog posts last week examining issues discussed at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012). The mood at the conference was “strangely optimistic,” as scientists, politicians, and advocates discussed the “end of AIDS,” she writes in one, adding, “The pandemic will not be over until the number of new infections hits zero, and the annual death toll plummets to insignificant levels.” In another, she states, “The newfound optimism that imbues this gathering of some 25,000 people in Washington, DC, is based on a few genuinely important breakthroughs. But while these insights offer hope of saving millions of lives and limiting a tidal wave of human suffering, they do not add up to the much-vaunted ‘end of AIDS.’” In a third, Garrett examines funding for the HIV/AIDS response and describes a debate that took place among experts and economists at the World Bank (7/27).
The Devex “Development Newswire” blog provides a comprehensive round-up of sessions, events, and reports from the third day (July 24) of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., including a summary of a session that discussed how Brazil, South Africa, India, and China contribute to the global AIDS response (Mungcal, 7/24).
The NYU Development Research Institute blog features an AIDS 2012 “Conference Political Courage Meter” graphic, based on Google News hits on different search terms. The blog states, “Some approaches to AIDS involve technical fixes (vaccines, treatment drugs, condoms, circumcision) on which it is easy to get political consensus. Others require real political courage to address, such as behavior change, i.e. reducing the number of multiple sexual partners — ‘concurrent relationships’ — that spread the epidemic.” The chart “collects all Google News hits on these terms and shows the weight of each of them in news coverage on the AIDS conference,” according to the blog (Easterly, 7/24).