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
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Healthy Living” blog, John-Manuel Andriote, a journalist and author living with HIV, writes, “For all of us living with HIV infection — Oct. 27 will mark seven years since my own diagnosis — the question we face daily, hopefully more consciously and deliberately than most, is how shall we live, knowing as we do that we will most assuredly die one day?” Reflecting on the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place in Washington last month, he continues, “An AIDS-free generation is certainly a worthy goal,” but “even if tens of billions of additional dollars are allocated to address HIV/AIDS, even if the Republicans don’t succeed in inflicting their Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ upon the nation and the world, the question will continue to be what it has been for 31 years … Will we have the political will to end AIDS?”
In this post in BMJ’s “Yankee Doodling,” Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist at RTI International and an associate editor for the journal, reflects on the possibility of achieving an AIDS-free generation “if somehow we succeeded in getting all HIV positive people in the world identified and under long term treatment.” He writes that while there has been “astonishing progress against AIDS,” “two concerns immediately arise: the magnitude of the work remaining to find and continuously treat all those infected, and the confusion between that treatment (even if it is somehow universally successful) and actual eradication of the disease.” He concludes, “It is a rosy scenario, but even if it came true it still would not spell the end of the HIV story,” because “[w]e have no vaccine, and the virus keeps mutating” (8/14).
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”
In this post in Global Post’s “Global Pulse” blog, Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, and Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at amfAR, write that “the world needs a business plan to end AIDS.” They continue, “To us, ending the epidemic means drastically reducing new HIV infections, while preserving the health of everyone living with HIV,” adding, “This is an ambitious vision, and it is achievable if we make smart use of the HIV prevention and treatment options available today, while continuing the search for a vaccine and a cure. It will require clear priorities, ambitious and achievable targets, sustained funding and effective ways to hold ourselves accountable for progress.”
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog examines how the “U.S. travel bans on people involved in sex work and people who have used illegal drugs … kept many of the people at highest risk from coming to the [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)]” in Washington, D.C., last month. “The result, observers said afterward, was a larger conference with fewer sex workers than had brought their first-hand experiences and concerns to Vienna and Mexico City,” according to the blog. Carlos Laudari, senior technical adviser for HIV AIDS prevention at Pathfinder, “and others said those in absentia were not the only ones disempowered; the loss of sex worker and drug user input on how to realize the goals of treatment as prevention, on barriers to funding, testing, health care access, and for that matter, on the difference between sex work and sex trafficking — commonly, and erroneously equated — weakened the dialogue and the action they were intended to inform,” the blog writes and quotes several other advocates (Barton, 8/8).
Science looks back at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), which ended last week in Washington, D.C., writing, “The battle against HIV is having more success than ever. … But several presentations made clear that a gulf separates aspirations from reality when it comes to ‘ending AIDS,’ which [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and many other prominent speakers at the conference emphasized was now possible.” Though more people are on antiretrovirals (ARVs) now than ever, low- and middle-income countries are spending more on HIV/AIDS, and “attempts to find a cure — long viewed as a fantasy — now lead the scientific agenda,” most “of the 34 million HIV-infected people in the world do not take ARVs, many receiving treatment have trouble staying on the medication, … new infection rates continue to climb in key populations,” “[n]o AIDS vaccine is on the horizon,” and “funding shortfalls loom for global programs,” Science writes, quoting several speakers at the conference and providing more detail on the successes and challenges in the response against HIV/AIDS (Cohen, 8/3).
Devex reports on a panel discussion held in Washington, D.C. Wednesday during which experts “looked back at the main surprises of the just-concluded [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)], and offered predictions on what the 2014 follow-up [in Melbourne, Australia] will focus on.” The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Kaiser Family Foundation convened the panel, which discussed, among other things, the so-called “cure agenda” and how it might feature in Melbourne, according to Devex. Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, which organizes the biannual event, noted that AIDS 2014 might place more focus on human rights and governance issues, according to the news service, which adds Greg Millet, senior policy adviser in the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, pointed out that HIV prevalence among men is higher in countries that criminalize homosexuality. “Holding the conference in Australia should increase participation by Asian countries, said J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president and director of the Global Health Policy Center” at CSIS, Devex writes (Brookland, 8/2). Jennifer Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and David Brown, staff writer at the Washington Post, also participated as panelists, according to the CSIS event page (8/3).
In this post in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron, responds to questions about Chevron’s presence at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., last week, writing that such questions “give me an opportunity to talk about the critical role everyone plays in the global fight against this epidemic, including Chevron, as well as the ways collaborative partnerships will lead to the elimination of AIDS.” She highlights the company’s HIV prevention efforts, including a pledge last year of $20 million to the U.N.’s mission to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015, and continues, “Individuals, non-profit organizations, medical practitioners, representatives of governments, and companies from the private sector joined together in Washington, D.C., with the same vision: to create an HIV-free generation and eliminate AIDS around the world” (8/1).
The XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place last week in Washington, D.C., “ignited momentum to shift from ‘fighting AIDS’ to ‘ending AIDS,'” Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health adviser at Oxfam International, and Urvarshi Rajcoomer, policy and advocacy adviser at Oxfam in South Africa, write in a Mail & Guardian opinion piece. “Oxfam believes investing in health systems such as infrastructure and health worker, drug supply chain and health information systems, is a critical prerequisite to ending AIDS,” they write. However, “to make this a reality,” pharmaceutical companies, donor governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank “must now do their part,” they continue.