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).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
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.
“Former President Bill Clinton delivered an energizing ‘call to action’ at the closing session of [the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)], encapsulating the high hopes and the sobering challenges facing the fight against global HIV/AIDS,” Janet Fleischman, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) Global Health Policy Center, writes in the center’s “Smart Global Health” blog. “In order to build the necessary political momentum going forward, he focused on certain key areas: supporting greater commitments from affected countries, driving down the costs of treatment, and creating innovative financing mechanisms to accompany traditional donor funding,” she notes, and highlights key messages from his Closing Session address (7/31). A webcast of the session is available online from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Health care, taxes, energy, favorite flavor of ice cream — it seems our elected leaders must disagree at every turn. But one issue that has so far repulsed the partisan pressures of the times was highlighted [at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)] in our nation’s capital last week: the fight against HIV/AIDS,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in an opinion piece in “The Week.” He says, “The conference was a celebration of the remarkable success made because of this leadership, and a call for continued support” in the response against HIV/AIDS. Noting he moderated a panel discussion with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on congressional bipartisanship at the conference, Frist continues, “I witnessed what I felt to be an accurate portrayal of how we got to the point where we could celebrate so many successes. Fundamental to the progress has been bipartisanship.”
In her “Global Health Blog,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley notes that she spoke with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah during last week’s XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012). She writes that though he “has a very clear vision of where USAID is going and what it hopes to achieve … [h]e appears to be a little concerned, however, that Europe may not keep pace — particularly on the finance but perhaps also on the approach.” She continues to say “Shah’s main anxiety is clearly … about the diminishing funding from European allies for the efforts to turn the tide of AIDS … but also about the financial commitment to global health generally.”
Lawrence Altman, former senior medical correspondent for the New York Times, writes in an opinion analysis in the newspaper that while there was much discussion about “ending the AIDS epidemic” and an “AIDS-free generation” at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) last week in Washington, D.C., “[o]ne obstacle is a failure to clearly define the epidemic or what it means to have an AIDS-free generation.” He continues, “Definitions of terms like these may help determine how many billions of dollars the world devotes to the battle against AIDS and how many millions of lives will be extended. A failure to meet ill-defined goals could lead to public misunderstandings that limit investments and the number of people who have access to the lifesaving antiretroviral drugs in the future.”
Inter Press Service reports on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, a region with “the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa.” The news service highlights a report titled “Together We Will End AIDS,” released by UNAIDS ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C. last week, which “noted that AIDS-related deaths in the Caribbean have declined by almost 50 percent in 10 years.” The news service highlights progress made in various countries in the region and quotes a number of experts and officials who spoke at or before the conference.
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog examines questions surrounding the use of the antiretroviral Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection among people at high risk, as studies released and panel discussions held last week at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) “raised concerns about the drug’s effect on the future of the AIDS fight.” According to the blog, “Leaders in the fight against AIDS are trying to work through these issues and figure out the best way to make use of Truvada as prevention.” The blog notes that the WHO last week “released a set of guidelines for how to use PrEP in demonstration projects” and quotes AVAC Director Mitchell Warren, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, amfAR Vice President and Director of Public Policy Chris Collins, and Black AIDS Institute President and CEO Phill Wilson (Judem, 7/27).