As the XIX International AIDS Conference concludes in Washington, D.C., “[t]his is a moment for all Americans to be proud of the best thing George W. Bush did as president: launching an initiative to combat AIDS in Africa that has saved millions of lives,” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson states in an opinion piece in the newspaper. PEPFAR “deserves accolades,” he writes, adding that the Bush administration ignored dissenting opinions stating that treatment in Africa posed a risk because of potential drug resistance and was motivated “by altruism” to create the program. Robinson notes that the Obama administration has proposed shifting funds from PEPFAR to “complementary programs” and that officials say “that overall HIV/AIDS funding will rise to an all-time high.” He also notes that Obama ended restrictions on allowing visas for people living with HIV to enter the country during his first year in office. “But if Africa is gaining ground against AIDS, history will note that it was Bush, more than any other individual, who turned the tide. The man who called himself the Decider will be held accountable for a host of calamitous decisions. But for opening his heart to Africa, he deserves nothing but gratitude and praise,” Robinson concludes (7/26).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
WEBCAST: Kaiser Family Foundation Interviews Science's Jon Cohen Regarding HIV Treatment, Cure Research
“Science Magazine’s Jon Cohen speaks with the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jackie Judd about the ‘treatment cascade’ and about research aimed at finding a cure for HIV” in this interview in the foundation’s “Washington Notebook” series, PBS NewsHour reports (Rogo, 7/25). Additional “Washington Notebook” interviews with other newsmakers who attended the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) can be found on the foundation’s webpage.
“It is outrageous that, in 2012, when we have everything we need to beat AIDS, we are still fighting prejudice, stigma, and exclusion,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes on the Human Rights and HIV/AIDS “Now More Than Ever” blog, adding, “It is my daily reminder that the AIDS response is not just about an epidemic; the AIDS response is, has been, and must be, an instrument to fight for social justice.” He concludes, “[O]ur common aspiration is clear: a world where no one gets infected with a preventable virus, no one dies of a treatable disease, and no one faces discrimination for a health condition. We have tools to stop HIV transmission, deaths and discrimination. Human rights demand that we deliver these tools to every community and person affected. By doing so, we help to transform societies into the inclusive places they should be” (7/25).
“On Wednesday, July 25, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases [NTDs] co-chaired a panel at the [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)], addressing the link between NTDs and HIV/AIDS,” the network’s “End the Neglect” blog reports. During the session, titled “Effective Solutions to Combat HIV: Increasing Evidence of the Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases on HIV Transmission and Disease Progression,” “members of the panel presented current research that has been conducted in Uganda and Brazil suggesting pathogenic links between NTDs such as schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis and HIV transmission and disease progression,” the blog notes (7/26).
The Center for Global Development’s “Global Health Policy” blog reports on a session at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) examining “how PEPFAR and the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] could collaborate more strategically to maximize impact.” According to the blog, the session “featured insight from high-level PEPFAR and Global Fund officials, focused on the progress made and challenges faced as the two funding agencies try to increase collaboration,” and was “followed by three country-level perspectives from Haiti, Tanzania and Malawi” (Duran, 7/26).
In this post in the AIDS.gov blog, Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Affairs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), examines the mental health needs of people living with HIV, writing, “The burden of being HIV-positive, or caring for loved ones living with the disease, is not restricted to the physical toll. For many people, there are equally important mental health needs (PDF). We at HHS understand that addressing HIV means addressing the whole person” (7/26).
The Economist on Friday published two articles from Saturday’s print edition regarding the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012). One article states that “[f]ew areas of international affairs have seen more recent success than the fight against AIDS,” and discusses advancements in HIV treatment research and availability (7/28). A second article provides a recap of several studies presented at the conference, notes “some people are starting to look beyond [current] antiretroviral (ARV) drugs,” and writes, “Several clues suggest a cure may be possible” (7/28). In a related post, the Economist’s “Babbage” blog reports on new tuberculosis (TB) research presented at the conference on Monday, which “found that a combination of one experimental drug, one drug approved for other infectious diseases and one existing TB drug had a comparable effect to standard TB treatment,” suggesting “the combination may fight some TB strains resistant to other drugs — and do so quite quickly” (7/26).
At the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Thursday, PEPFAR and Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), “announced Labs for Life, a new collaboration to help strengthen healthcare and laboratory systems in the developing world along with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” a State Department fact sheet states (7/26). “The new five-year initiative builds on a previous five-year partnership between the U.S. government and [BD]” that “improved lab services in sub-Saharan African countries affected by HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, according to U.S. officials who had been briefed on an audit that will be released in a few weeks,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Adams, 7/26).
Two studies presented at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) and one published Wednesday in the British journal Nature “have given researchers renewed hope that a cure for AIDS may be possible,” the Washington Post reports. “None of the strategies are easy, proved or ready for prime time,” but “all involve procedures or drugs that are already in use and are able to be deployed widely if further research bears out the early findings,” the newspaper writes (Brown/Botelho, 7/26). “One study focused on a group of 12 patients in France who began treatment on antiretroviral drugs within 10 weeks of becoming infected with human immunodeficiency virus, but then stopped the therapy” after an average of three years of treatment, Agence France-Presse writes (Sheridan/Santini, 7/26). According to a conference press release, the patients “have shown no signs of a resurgence of their HIV infection” six years after stopping therapy (7/26). “The work is further evidence that people should be given drugs as soon as possible,” the Guardian adds (Boseley, 7/26).
WEBCAST: Kaiser Family Foundation Interviews Science's Jon Cohen Regarding New Research On HIV Treatment In East Africa
“Science Magazine’s Jon Cohen speaks with the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jackie Judd about preliminary science that may show why East Africans could be at a disadvantage when being treated for HIV infection,” in a “Washington Notebook” interview on the foundation’s webpage, PBS NewsHour reports. Cohen discusses two studies presented at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., this week (7/25).