“The XIX International AIDS Conference [AIDS 2012] drew to a close Friday without the physical presence of President Obama but with a full cast of other high-profile U.S. politicians who expressed their commitment to ending the disease,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Norman, 7/27). The conference closed “with the message that getting treatment to more of the world’s 34 million people with HIV is key to curbing the epidemic, short of a vaccine and cure that still are years away,” the Associated Press adds (Neergaard, 7/27). “Presenters at AIDS 2012, from senior government officials and heads of international organizations to civil society leaders and scientists, all echoed that for the first time in the history of AIDS, an end to the epidemic is on the horizon,” an UNAIDS feature article writes, adding, “However, speakers cautioned that there are still numerous challenges that must be addressed before the international community reaches zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS-related deaths” (7/27).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
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).
Noting that President Barack Obama’s “only presence [at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)] is a 50-second cameo in a three-minute video welcoming delegates,” Bloomberg reports that his “absence … has activists talking.” The news service discusses Obama’s campaign schedule, interviews advocates about his decision, and talks to policy experts regarding U.S. global AIDS funding. “Administration officials defended the president’s priorities and his attention to the issue,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama’s National Security Council, said in an e-mail that ‘the most important metric for PEPFAR is lives saved, not dollars spent, and through smart investments we are delivering results'” (Brower, 7/25).
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 U.S. Census Bureau on Monday launched an interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths, which contains 149,000 statistics, making it the “most complete of its kind in the world,” according to a Census Bureau press release. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby said, “This release of the HIV/AIDS database will expand global access to data that are critical to understanding the epidemic. This information is invaluable for the evidence-based response PEPFAR is championing,” according to the press release (7/23). Also on Monday, the Humanitarian Information Unit in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research released two maps. The first (.pdf) depicts where PEPFAR supported HIV/AIDS programs in fiscal year 2011, and the second (.pdf) shows where PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria support HIV/AIDS programs throughout the world, according to an email announcement (7/23).
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).
The following webcasts are now available at http://www.kff.org/AIDS2012.
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).
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 post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog, IAVI President and CEO Margaret McGlynn, AVAC Executive Director Mitchell Warren and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe highlight the release of a report from the HIV Vaccine & Microbicides Resource Tracking Working Group, which “documents 2011 research investments in preventive and therapeutic HIV vaccines, cure research, microbicide development, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and operations research to support implementation of such evidence-based interventions as the prevention of vertical transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision and the use of antiretroviral therapies for HIV prevention” (Barton, 7/23). In related news, in a post in USAID’s “Impact” blog, McGlynn writes about recent advances that have “fueled optimism and lent a new momentum to the field of HIV vaccine” research and development (R&D) (7/24).