In this Politico opinion piece, Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, and Gerry Elsdon, a South African businesswoman and television host — both tuberculosis (TB) survivors — write that one priority at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., this week “should be spearheading a joint global effort against HIV and tuberculosis.” They write, “The rationale for a joint effort is clear,” adding, “Where HIV and TB are most common, the epidemics have merged, or are in the process of merging, into a single co-epidemic,” and “[t]hose whose immune systems are weakened by HIV are at extreme risk of dying from TB.” They conclude, “Thanks to a series of recent scientific breakthroughs, this week’s conference is the first in 30 years that has activists seriously contemplating the end of AIDS. Yet to see a real end to AIDS, we must put an end to TB. So let’s combine our efforts to reach these two goals” (7/24).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
In this Washington Post opinion piece, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., examines the role that Christians have played in the global effort to eradicate AIDS, noting the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) is being held in Washington, D.C., this week. “Two decades ago, no one would have predicted that Christians would so quickly change their response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic from criticism to compassion,” he writes, and provides a history of the Christian response. He concludes, “As thousands gather for the International AIDS Conference this week, with the end of AIDS in sight, let’s focus on our role and responsibility as Christians in continuing this important work until we truly achieve an AIDS-free generation” (7/25).
“At the XIX International AIDS Conference this week in Washington, D.C., Americans should be proud of what we have done to fight HIV/AIDS around the world, and how, together, we are turning the tide against an epidemic once thought to be invincible,” CARE USA President and CEO Helene Gayle writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “At CARE, which fights global poverty by empowering women and girls, we have seen women — particularly young women — remain disproportionately at risk of contracting the disease,” she writes, noting, “The World Health Organization reports that women constitute 60 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.” She concludes, “Continuing the momentum means staying ahead of the disease and reaching the most vulnerable populations such as the ultra-poor and, in too many places, women and girls” (7/24).
AIDS 2012 Plenary Speakers Call For Expanded Efforts To Provide HIV Treatment, Prevention To Women, Children
AIDS experts speaking at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Wednesday called for an expansion of HIV care and treatment to all women instead of focusing only on those who are pregnant, the Associated Press reports. While many countries have programs to treat pregnant women with HIV infection with antiretroviral treatment (ART) to lessen the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, UNICEF Senior Programme Adviser Chewe Luo said at the plenary session that most countries do not continue providing ART after mothers wean their infants, the news service notes, adding, “She praised Malawi for starting to do just that” through a treatment initiative called Plan B+ (Neergaard, 7/25). According to the Guardian, the plan would add an additional $300 million to global treatment costs, but “people with HIV on treatment become far less likely to infect their partners, as well as their babies, so the additional outlay may be considered a good investment.” Luo said discussions with PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria about funding such programs are underway, the newspaper notes (Boseley, 7/25). In a satellite session on Tuesday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “commended countries and their international partners for recent progress in preventing new HIV infections among children and saving mothers’ lives,” health-e news reports (7/25).
As delegates from around the world convene for the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), NPR correspondent Michel Martin “speaks to Haiti’s First Lady Sophia Martelly about the Caribbean island’s progress against the epidemic and challenges that persist” in this interview from NPR’s “Tell Me More.” “I think the first thing I really would like people — not even to do, but to remember that, as I said previously, we are moving forward,” she says, adding, “It’s not about HIV. It’s not about earthquake. We are real. We are beautiful and we are making tremendous progress,” according to the interview transcript (7/25).
Noting new guidelines released at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., this week “call for everybody with HIV to be started on antiretroviral drugs [ARVs] as soon as they test positive for the virus,” NPR’s “Shots” blog examines “whether the goal is achievable, and who would pay for this enormous expansion in treatment.” “Right now about eight million people across the world are getting treated for HIV at a cost of around $17 billion a year,” the blog writes, adding, “Universal treatment would cost another $22 billion, by some estimates.” The blog notes Bernhard Schwartlander, director for evidence, strategy and results at UNAIDS, in a plenary speech at the conference on Tuesday “offered up several possible ways to raise the money,” including a tax on shipping and aviation fuel (Knox, 7/26).
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, in an interview with the Guardian, “said he was passionately committed to ending absolute poverty, which threatens survival and makes progress impossible for the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day,” the news service writes. According to the Guardian, Kim “is determined to eradicate global poverty through goals, targets and measuring success in the same way that he masterminded an AIDS drugs campaign for poor people nearly a decade ago,” and he “will set ‘a clear, simple goal’ in the eradication of absolute poverty” (Boseley, 7/25). In a related post in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Kim speaks to correspondent John Donnelly “about the Bank’s focus on eradicating poverty and fighting AIDS.” “Good health is always going to remain a part of a much larger agenda to move people out of poverty,” he says in the interview, adding, “The Bank’s focus has appropriately been on health systems” (7/24).
The NYU Development Research Institute blog features an AIDS 2012 “Conference Political Courage Meter” graphic, based on Google News hits on different search terms. The blog states, “Some approaches to AIDS involve technical fixes (vaccines, treatment drugs, condoms, circumcision) on which it is easy to get political consensus. Others require real political courage to address, such as behavior change, i.e. reducing the number of multiple sexual partners — ‘concurrent relationships’ — that spread the epidemic.” The chart “collects all Google News hits on these terms and shows the weight of each of them in news coverage on the AIDS conference,” according to the blog (Easterly, 7/24).
The U.S. Census Bureau on Monday launched an interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths, which contains 149,000 statistics, making it the “most complete of its kind in the world,” according to a Census Bureau press release. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby said, “This release of the HIV/AIDS database will expand global access to data that are critical to understanding the epidemic. This information is invaluable for the evidence-based response PEPFAR is championing,” according to the press release (7/23). Also on Monday, the Humanitarian Information Unit in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research released two maps. The first (.pdf) depicts where PEPFAR supported HIV/AIDS programs in fiscal year 2011, and the second (.pdf) shows where PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria support HIV/AIDS programs throughout the world, according to an email announcement (7/23).
A UNAIDS press release describes a Congressional bipartisan briefing that took place on Tuesday with the theme, “Together we will end AIDS.” Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) hosted the briefing, which aimed to “find ways of maximizing new opportunities to respond to HIV,” according to the press release. Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe, and Sir Elton John also attended the meeting, according to UNAIDS (7/24).