Noting that President Barack Obama’s “only presence [at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)] is a 50-second cameo in a three-minute video welcoming delegates,” Bloomberg reports that his “absence … has activists talking.” The news service discusses Obama’s campaign schedule, interviews advocates about his decision, and talks to policy experts regarding U.S. global AIDS funding. “Administration officials defended the president’s priorities and his attention to the issue,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama’s National Security Council, said in an e-mail that ‘the most important metric for PEPFAR is lives saved, not dollars spent, and through smart investments we are delivering results'” (Brower, 7/25).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
The Devex “Development Newswire” blog provides a comprehensive round-up of sessions, events, and reports from the third day (July 24) of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., including a summary of a session that discussed how Brazil, South Africa, India, and China contribute to the global AIDS response (Mungcal, 7/24).
As participants convene this week in Washington, D.C., for the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), “it is impossible to ignore an inconvenient truth: that drug war politics and policies in the United States and many other countries are severely jeopardizing the overall ‘fight against AIDS,'” Mathilde Krim, founding chair of amfAR and a member of the board of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, write in the Huffington Post’s “Politics Blog.” They continue, “Too many countries in the world have let their repressive and punitive drug policies get in the way of the public’s health. … The spread of HIV will not be stopped as long as drug use remains criminalized and as long as people who inject drugs are given up for lost” (7/24).
Noting successes with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and PEPFAR, as well as other domestic and international programs, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) writes in a Politico opinion piece, “But this is not enough.” He continues, “The Obama administration has the opportunity to push for policies that can offer developing nations more access to generic ARV therapies,” including supporting intellectual property rules under the Trans-Pacific Partnership “that would help speed up — not impede — generic drug competition in countries like Vietnam.” Waxman adds, “We should also back efforts to give developing countries more flexibility in interpreting the World Trade Organization’s patent rules for medicines,” and the administration “should … promote the Medicines Patent Pool, a bold initiative to bring down prices of HIV medicines by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily license their patents and allow generic manufacturers to sell in developing countries.” Waxman concludes that the U.S. should be proud of its leadership on HIV/AIDS, “[b]ut our work is far from done. Supporting reliable access to generic medicines in the developing world is a much-needed step in getting us there” (7/24).
OPINION: Partnerships, Dedication Within Pharmaceutical Industry Have 'Contributed Greatly' To AIDS Progress
PhRMA President and CEO John Castellani reflects on the role of partnerships and dedication within the pharmaceutical industry in the global AIDS response in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, writing, “The determination to research and develop medicines to fight HIV/AIDS has contributed greatly to the steady decrease in AIDS-related deaths worldwide, from the peak of 2.1 million in 2004 to an estimated 1.8 million in 2009, according to the 2010 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.” He highlights three global AIDS challenges — “ensuring new medicines and training are available on an emergency basis, forging innovative partnerships that build a sustainable infrastructure that enables safe delivery of treatment and licensing manufacturing to foreign governments to allow patients to access lower cost or no cost treatments” — discusses recent progress, and concludes, “Our determination and pursuit of eradication lives in the 88 medicines and vaccines currently in development and the research that is currently under way at dozens of facilities across the world” (7/24).
In this opinion piece in the Atlantic, Mark Harrington, co-founder and executive director of the Treatment Action Group (TAG), says that stronger leadership from the U.S. is needed in order to end the AIDS epidemic. Harrington notes that “earlier this year, [President Obama] proposed a shocking cut of $550 million to [PEPFAR], the most successful U.S.-funded global health program in history,” and highlights his absence from “the first International AIDS Conference to be held on American soil since … 1990.” He provides “a to do list the president should consider if he wants to walk the walk,” which includes “[f]ully fund[ing] PEPFAR and support[ing] its reauthorization in 2013,” “[f]ully support[ing] the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” “[r]eject[ing] the congressional ban on federal funding for needle exchange,” “[r]evis[ing] and revitaliz[ing] the National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” increasing funding for NIH, and “fully funding the research, prevention, care, and treatment” needed to end the epidemic (7/24).
“AIDS activists gathering in Washington, D.C., and Kolkata, India, this week have denounced conditions attached to U.S. global AIDS funding, which they say have damaged the response to the epidemic by further marginalizing sex workers — among those hardest hit” by the epidemic, the Guardian reports. “International organizations that receive funds through [PEPFAR] must sign an ‘anti-prostitution pledge’ prohibiting them from doing anything that could be perceived as supporting sex work,” the news service notes. According to the Guardian, “U.S. organizations that receive PEPFAR money are no longer bound by the pledge, after successfully taking the government to court on the basis that the conditions attached to funding violate first amendment rights,” but “organizations outside the U.S. are still required to sign it” (Provost, 7/25).
International medicines financing mechanism UNITAID said on Monday it “will invest more than $140 million to evaluate point-of-care [PoC] HIV diagnostic and monitoring technology in seven African countries,” PlusNews reports, adding, “New technology could help put more people living with HIV on treatment faster and improve care, UNITAID partners said at the international AIDS conference in Washington, D.C.” (7/25). “The investment … is being committed to projects implemented by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), UNICEF and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to increase access to affordable point-of-care HIV diagnostics adapted for use in resource-poor settings,” aidsmap notes in a news story on its webpage (Smart, 7/24).
Speakers at Tuesday’s plenary session at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. highlighted the challenges that lie ahead in the response to HIV/AIDS and discussed potential solutions, ABC News reports (Duwell, 7/25). Bernhard Schwartlander, director for evidence, strategy and results at UNAIDS, “highlighted the many new possibilities for collaboration, activism, and financing for the AIDS response as economic growth is rapidly changing the global order,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story (7/24). “A lot of very clever and dedicated people are working very hard in making sure that services are delivered more efficiently, and … more people receive HIV services with the same amount of money,” he said at the session, PlusNews writes (7/25). According to UNAIDS, Schwartlander “outlined a number of innovative financing methods … such as the financial transaction tax; front-loading investments for health through bonds; or utilizing fines paid by pharmaceutical companies for anti-competitive practices for health assistance” (7/24).
WEBCAST: Kaiser Family Foundation Interviews Science's Jon Cohen Regarding Possibility Of AIDS 'Cure'
“Science Magazine reporter Jon Cohen speaks with the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jackie Judd about the willingness of scientists to discuss the possibility of a ‘cure’ for HIV/AIDS,” in a “Washington Notebook” interview on the foundation’s website, PBS NewsHour reports. In the interview, Cohen highlights a report to be released later this week about successes in the area of “functional cure” research, the news service notes (7/23).