Two dozen corporate leaders on Sunday signed a statement calling on 46 countries to lift restrictions on travelers who are living with HIV because the policies are discriminatory and bad for business, VOA’s “Breaking News” blog reports (7/22). Some corporations and organizations participating in the campaign include Levi Strauss, Anglo American, fashion merchants H&M and Gap, Coca-Cola, and pharmaceutical firms Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences and Merck, Agence France-Presse notes (7/22). According to an UNAIDS press release, “The pledge is an initiative of UNAIDS in partnership with GBCHealth, which is mobilizing the corporate signatures (7/22).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
“Hundreds of sex workers from around the world who said they were denied visas to attend an international AIDS conference in the United States began their own meeting in Kolkata on Saturday in protest,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Some 550 representatives of sex workers from India and 41 other countries were attending the seven-day event in the eastern Indian city, organizers said,” the news agency writes (Sil, 7/21). The International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) “return[ed] to American soil for the first time in more than 20 years, in recognition of President Barack Obama’s 2009 decision to lift the U.S. travel ban on people living with HIV,” the Guardian states, noting that “U.S. legislation still prohibits sex workers and drug users from entering the country.”
Noting the International AIDS Conference is being held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on an event with “government leaders, philanthropists, faith leaders, entrepreneurs and entertainers at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre [Saturday] night to recognize what the world has achieved in turning the tide on AIDS,” in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. Gates says the event “offered a great stage to share success stories and talk about the importance of sustained HIV funding,” and concludes, “Americans can be justifiably proud of the tremendous moral leadership that the U.S. has taken in producing breakthrough innovations in the fight against HIV” (7/22).
AVAC, previously known as the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, and amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, “have published ‘An Action Agenda to End AIDS’ [.pdf] — a combination of short- and long-term goals â€¦ to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” VOA News reports, noting, “The report is being released ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington.” The news service highlights several scientific advancements made in the last several years and writes that, according to the agenda, “making the hard choices,” as well as “‘mobilizing sufficient, sustainable resources’ to ensure that critical interventions are scaled-up and not cut back,” are essential steps to ending the epidemic” (De Capua, 7/20). The report “was informed by an analysis of modeling research and consultations with top HIV prevention experts,” a joint press release notes (7/23).
“Lack of money can no longer be considered a reason — or an excuse — for failing to treat all those with HIV who need drugs to stay alive, following game-changing work about to be published by the Clinton Foundation that shows the real cost is four times less than previously thought,” the Guardian reports. “The striking findings of a substantial study carried out in five countries of sub-Saharan Africa are hugely important and will set a new hopeful tone for the International Aids Conference in Washington, which open[ed] on Sunday,” the news service writes.
Noting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an AIDS-free generation last November in a speech at the National Institutes of Health, GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a discussion held Saturday at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), during which “several AIDS experts and U.S. officials gave their views on what it meant to reach an AIDS-free generation — and when it would happen.” The news service quotes several speakers at the event, including Chris Beyrer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health “who has served as a consultant to several U.S. agencies on AIDS issues,” Kevin De Cock, director of the Center for Global Health at the CDC, and event moderator Tom Quinn, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health (Donnelly, 7/22).
The XIX International AIDS Conference opened in Washington, D.C., on Sunday and “is expected to draw 25,000 people, including politicians, scientists and activists, as well as some of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV who will tell their stories,” Agence France-Presse reports (Sheridan, 7/22). “Researchers, doctors and patients attending the world’s largest AIDS conference are urging the world’s governments not to cut back on the fight against the epidemic when it is at a turning point,” the Associated Press writes, adding, “There is no cure or vaccine yet, but scientists say they have the tools to finally stem the spread of this intractable virus — largely by using treatment not just to save patients but to make them less infectious, too” (Neergaard, 7/22). “New breakthroughs in research will be announced, as will new efforts by governments and organizations to reduce the spread of HIV, to treat those who have it, and to work, eventually, toward a vaccine and a cure,” the Seattle Times writes (Tate, 7/22). According to the Washington Post’s “Blog Post,” three remaining challenges to be addressed at the conference include: “More research into treatment and prevention, and more ways to deliver treatments”; reaching marginalized populations, such as men who have sex with men and sex workers; and “[i]ncreasing funding for PEPFAR and other anti-AIDS programs” (Khazan, 7/20).
“[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.”
“President Barack Obama has a standing invitation to speak at the [XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., next week], and he likely would be welcomed with loud cheers given his progressive HIV/AIDS policies,” journalist Jon Cohen writes in a Slate opinion piece. “But Obama apparently can’t carve out the time, which both runs the risk of angering a volatile community and squandering a historic opportunity,” he continues. Though some “U.S. government officials who have made presentations at the meeting … have weathered humiliating greetings, … Obama would face none of this hostility,” Cohen writes, noting that the U.S. “today spends more money on HIV/AIDS research than all countries combined and also is the single most generous donor to the global effort to combat the disease.”
In this webcast from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and the Black AIDS Institute, “[e]xperts and leading voices in the [HIV/AIDS] field discuss their expectations of the [AIDS 2012] conference in the areas of treatment, prevention, advocacy and the epidemic in the U.S.,” according to the foundation’s webpage (7/19). In this “Washington Notebook” podcast from the foundation, Jackie Judd, vice president and executive producer of multimedia at KFF, interviews Science Magazine reporter Jon Cohen in the first of a series of interviews highlighting notable developments from the conference (7/20).