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).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
Noting that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s special cabinet committee on AIDS in 1986 “decided there should be clean needle exchanges for injecting drug users (IDUs) to prevent the spread of HIV,” Norman Fowler, a member of the British House of Lords and former British health secretary, writes in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” There is no question that needle exchanges and drug substitution have reduced HIV: only two percent of new infections in Britain now come through that route.” In addition, “The policy has neither encouraged drug taking nor crime. Similar reports come from other nations that have adopted this approach,” he says, continuing, “Tragically, not all nations have followed such a lead,” including the U.S. and the Ukraine. Fowler adds, “If the U.S. was to reconsider [its recently reinstated] ban [on funding domestic and international needle exchanges] and recognize that without needle-exchange programs it is impossible to provide full protection from the spread of HIV and the death and suffering that goes with it, it would send a message around the world” (7/20).
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).
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).
Michael Merson, director of the Duke Global Health Institute, writes in The Hill’s “Congress Blog” that much of the progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS “has been made — and the lives of millions of people saved — because of PEPFAR, … [t]he largest ever global investment in health by the United States government.” With PEPFAR’s “aggressive new goals” — to provide antiretroviral drugs to six million people in low- and middle-income countries, “fund 4.7 million male circumcisions and provide antiretroviral therapy to 1.5 million HIV-infected pregnant women by 2013” — “[w]e need to ask: Are we setting ambitious goals that we’re not prepared to fund or meet? Are we setting up one of our country’s greatest successes for failure?” Merson asks. He notes that “PEPFAR funding has flatlined despite these new targets and is not nearly enough to maintain progress and continue reducing new HIV/AIDS cases and deaths” and that “uncertainty” surrounds the “commitment by Congress” and the outcome of the presidential election. Saying that “PEPFAR itself also needs to continue to adjust its priorities,” Merson states that “treatment, prevention, care, health system capacity and scientific research to develop an HIV vaccine require financial commitment, strong political will and investment in resources from all stakeholders. Let us not fall behind now and bring back the suffering of the past” (7/20).
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).
“[F]olks in Kansas City, Memphis, Selma, El Paso and all across America need to know that you are, indeed, keeping nearly six million men, women and children alive with your tax dollars,” Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, adding, “Actually, the total is much larger than that, America, because six million is just the number of people that are every single day taking anti-HIV medicines that they receive through programs that you fund.” She notes that American tax money pays for HIV prevention campaigns worldwide and medical research on antiretroviral drugs, diagnostic tests and other advances. “Though other countries and private donors contribute to the prevention and treatment of AIDS, none can match the sheer scale of what America is doing,” Garrett writes, adding, “A mere $6.6 billion this fiscal year — out of a total U.S. budget of $3.8 trillion — is the cost of our modern day, life-giving packages.” She concludes, “That’s 0.16 percent of the federal budget, to save millions of lives. What a bargain” (7/20).
“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 2010 reversal of the HIV travel and immigration ban allowing the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to be held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, “It is so exciting to host this conference at such a pivotal time in the history of the AIDS response,” and adds, “At no other time in history has our global leadership been more important than it is right now.” With nearly 25,000 people from about 200 countries expected to gather in Washington, D.C., for the conference July 22-27, “These leaders in the global HIV and AIDS fight will showcase their incredible efforts and achievements on our own soil” and “have the opportunity to develop new solutions in addressing the ongoing challenges posed by HIV/AIDS in our own country and around the world,” Lee writes.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) “has released an updated reporting manual on HIV/AIDS ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) taking place in Washington, D.C.,” this month, according to a KFF e-mail alert. “This reporting guide is designed for journalists who are covering the global epidemic for the first time and for those who have covered it previously,” it notes, adding, “The material in this special AIDS 2012 edition covers a broad range of subjects including the unique challenges of reporting on HIV/AIDS, treatment and prevention strategies and global efforts to finance the campaign against HIV/AIDS” (7/12).