Speakers at Tuesday’s plenary session at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. highlighted the challenges that lie ahead in the response to HIV/AIDS and discussed potential solutions, ABC News reports (Duwell, 7/25). Bernhard Schwartlander, director for evidence, strategy and results at UNAIDS, “highlighted the many new possibilities for collaboration, activism, and financing for the AIDS response as economic growth is rapidly changing the global order,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story (7/24). “A lot of very clever and dedicated people are working very hard in making sure that services are delivered more efficiently, and … more people receive HIV services with the same amount of money,” he said at the session, PlusNews writes (7/25). According to UNAIDS, Schwartlander “outlined a number of innovative financing methods … such as the financial transaction tax; front-loading investments for health through bonds; or utilizing fines paid by pharmaceutical companies for anti-competitive practices for health assistance” (7/24).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
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).
OPINION: Partnerships, Dedication Within Pharmaceutical Industry Have 'Contributed Greatly' To AIDS Progress
PhRMA President and CEO John Castellani reflects on the role of partnerships and dedication within the pharmaceutical industry in the global AIDS response in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, writing, “The determination to research and develop medicines to fight HIV/AIDS has contributed greatly to the steady decrease in AIDS-related deaths worldwide, from the peak of 2.1 million in 2004 to an estimated 1.8 million in 2009, according to the 2010 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.” He highlights three global AIDS challenges — “ensuring new medicines and training are available on an emergency basis, forging innovative partnerships that build a sustainable infrastructure that enables safe delivery of treatment and licensing manufacturing to foreign governments to allow patients to access lower cost or no cost treatments” — discusses recent progress, and concludes, “Our determination and pursuit of eradication lives in the 88 medicines and vaccines currently in development and the research that is currently under way at dozens of facilities across the world” (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).
As participants convene this week in Washington, D.C., for the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), “it is impossible to ignore an inconvenient truth: that drug war politics and policies in the United States and many other countries are severely jeopardizing the overall ‘fight against AIDS,’” Mathilde Krim, founding chair of amfAR and a member of the board of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, write in the Huffington Post’s “Politics Blog.” They continue, “Too many countries in the world have let their repressive and punitive drug policies get in the way of the public’s health. … The spread of HIV will not be stopped as long as drug use remains criminalized and as long as people who inject drugs are given up for lost” (7/24).
WEBCAST: Kaiser Family Foundation Interviews Science's Jon Cohen Regarding New Approach To AIDS Financing
“Science magazine reporter Jon Cohen speaks with the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jackie Judd about a call Tuesday for a new approach to financing the global battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic” in a “Washington Notebook” interview on the foundation’s website, PBS NewsHour reports. “[T]here are many, many countries that are going to be moving out of low-income status into middle-income status and that’s going to put pressure on them from the donors to do more and more,” Cohen says, adding “many poor countries signed on to a declaration that they would pay 15 percent of their health care needs and many have not done it,” according to the interview transcript (7/23).
“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).
Noting “[a]pproximately 17 million women worldwide are currently living with HIV, with more than a million new infections in women of reproductive age each year,” Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of Population Action International (PAI), and Charles Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), write in this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog that “family planning and HIV are inextricably linked, especially for HIV-positive women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.” They continue, “And while addressing unmet family planning needs is essential for all women, family planning services are particularly critical for HIV-positive women who want to postpone pregnancy due to HIV-related illness, or want to access medicines and services that will allow them to give birth to an HIV-negative child” (Barton, 7/24).
“Urban America continues to suffer high rates of HIV despite successes of antiretroviral treatment that can suppress the virus, decrease transmission, prevent progression to AIDS, and lower death rates,” Gregory Pappas, senior deputy director of the Washington, D.C., Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA), writes in a Washington Blade opinion piece. “The global U.S. response known as the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) succeeded by enhancing funding, coordinating government efforts and working across jurisdictions,” he states, adding, “A domestic PEPFAR would emphasize enhanced spending, promote regional data, and plan and coordinate services regionally.”
“[D]isappointingly, one group that will be absent [from the XIX International AIDS Conference next week] due to U.S. travel restrictions is sex workers,” a Lancet editorial states. “Sex workers have been extremely neglected as a population in the global response to HIV/AIDS, despite their substantially heightened risk of HIV infection and propensity to transmit new infections into general populations,” the editorial continues, adding, “Yet global funding allocations have been inadequate or restricted policies have been applied, such as the U.S. anti-prostitution pledge, which has greatly limited research and the response to HIV in sex workers. Furthermore, the conflation of sex work with human trafficking, and the disregard of sex work as work, has meant that sex workers’ rights have not been properly recognized.”