Susan Blumenthal, public health editor at Huffington Post and former U.S. assistant surgeon general, and Michelle Moses-Eisenstein, an Allan Rosenfield Health Policy Fellow with amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research in Washington, write in the Huffington Post Blog that the International AIDS Conference, held in Washinton this week, “will highlight opportunities for achieving an AIDS-free generation.” They add, “Of great concern right now is that the remarkable progress toward ending AIDS that has been made over the past decades is being threatened by a decline in resources and the threat of budget cuts to support HIV research and services worldwide.” They conclude, “If we are going to eradicate AIDS in America and worldwide, then a global strategic plan for achieving an HIV-free generation is needed that mobilizes all sectors of society across countries, scales up interventions that work to reach more people, makes programs more efficient and accountable, and invests in research to accelerate progress in ending HIV/AIDS, including intensifying efforts to discover both a cure and a vaccine” (7/23).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
GlobalPost correspondent John Donnelly interviews Vanessa Kerry, daughter of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and a doctor working at Massachusetts General Hospital, about the partnership she spearheaded between her non-profit, the Global Health Service Corps, and the Peace Corps, in this post in the “Global Pulse” blog. According to the blog, “Kerry talked to GlobalPost about the partnership, her reasons for working with the Peace Corps on the project and her parents’ influence on her” (7/23).
Secretary Clinton Reaffirms U.S. Commitment To 'AIDS-Free Generation,' Pledges More Than $150M For Global Efforts
In a speech delivered at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “underscored the United States’ commitment to achieving an ‘AIDS-free generation’ and announced more than $150 million in additional funding,” Politico reports (Norman, 7/23). “‘Iâ€™ve heard a few voices from people raising questions about America’s commitment,’ she said, adding, ‘We will not back off. We will not back down,'” according to The Hill’s “Healthwatch” (Viebeck, 7/23). Of the $150 million pledged, “$80 million will be dedicated towards preventing mother-to-child transmission abroad, with the goal of eliminating it by the year 2015”; “[a]nother $40 million is allotted for voluntary male circumcision in Africa to decrease risk of transmission of the virus”; “an additional $15 million [will] fund research on interventions”; “$20 million [is] to bolster country-led efforts to expand HIV-related services”; and “$2 million [will go] towards civil society groups to reach key populations affected by HIV,” ABC News writes (Duwell, 7/23). “Clinton said she had commissioned [U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby] to produce a blueprint for the way ahead,” the Guardian notes (Boseley, 7/23). “Goosbyâ€™s deadline is the upcoming World AIDS Day, Dec. 1,” Inter Press Service adds (Biron, 7/23).
In the lead up to the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), several major news outlets reported on the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and expectations for the conference. The following summarizes several of these reports.
RECENT RELEASE: Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post Poll Shows Positive News About Public Opinion And HIV
As the XIX International AIDS Conference convenes in Washington, D.C., Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) President and CEO Drew Altman highlights positive news about public opinion and HIV from KFF’s new survey of the American people conducted with the Washington Post in his latest “Pulling It Together” column. He says that “the American people get most of the essentials about the HIV epidemic right (but not necessarily all of the details)” and highlights some of the survey’s findings. Altman also explores factors possibly contributing to the public’s understanding of the epidemic, including media coverage, personal contact with people living with HIV, and advocacy and education efforts. Though “there is a long way to go in the effort to end the epidemic here and abroad … there is a foundation of basic public knowledge and support which will serve the HIV effort well in years ahead,” he concludes (7/23).
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) in partnership with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has launched a new monthly infographic series, titled Visualizing Health Policy, which will provide visual snapshots of data that illuminate health policy issues, according to a KFF announcement (7/23). July’s Visualizing Health Policy looks at the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic after three decades, and is published in the July 25 edition of JAMA, released at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., the KFF website notes (7/23). The infographic includes global estimates of HIV prevalence, donor government funding for HIV/AIDS in developing countries, rates of new HIV diagnoses in the United States by race/ethnicity, and how the public’s perception of HIV/AIDS as the most urgent public health problem has diminished over time (7/23).
The IAS International AIDS Conference YouTube channel this week will feature video interviews with newsmakers attending AIDS 2012, including many of the plenary speakers. Videos will be posted as they become available on the IAC Conference Channel on YouTube (7/23).
Noting that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s special cabinet committee on AIDS in 1986 “decided there should be clean needle exchanges for injecting drug users (IDUs) to prevent the spread of HIV,” Norman Fowler, a member of the British House of Lords and former British health secretary, writes in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” There is no question that needle exchanges and drug substitution have reduced HIV: only two percent of new infections in Britain now come through that route.” In addition, “The policy has neither encouraged drug taking nor crime. Similar reports come from other nations that have adopted this approach,” he says, continuing, “Tragically, not all nations have followed such a lead,” including the U.S. and the Ukraine. Fowler adds, “If the U.S. was to reconsider [its recently reinstated] ban [on funding domestic and international needle exchanges] and recognize that without needle-exchange programs it is impossible to provide full protection from the spread of HIV and the death and suffering that goes with it, it would send a message around the world” (7/20).
Michael Merson, director of the Duke Global Health Institute, writes in The Hill’s “Congress Blog” that much of the progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS “has been made — and the lives of millions of people saved — because of PEPFAR, … [t]he largest ever global investment in health by the United States government.” With PEPFAR’s “aggressive new goals” — to provide antiretroviral drugs to six million people in low- and middle-income countries, “fund 4.7 million male circumcisions and provide antiretroviral therapy to 1.5 million HIV-infected pregnant women by 2013” — “[w]e need to ask: Are we setting ambitious goals that we’re not prepared to fund or meet? Are we setting up one of our country’s greatest successes for failure?” Merson asks. He notes that “PEPFAR funding has flatlined despite these new targets and is not nearly enough to maintain progress and continue reducing new HIV/AIDS cases and deaths” and that “uncertainty” surrounds the “commitment by Congress” and the outcome of the presidential election. Saying that “PEPFAR itself also needs to continue to adjust its priorities,” Merson states that “treatment, prevention, care, health system capacity and scientific research to develop an HIV vaccine require financial commitment, strong political will and investment in resources from all stakeholders. Let us not fall behind now and bring back the suffering of the past” (7/20).
“[F]olks in Kansas City, Memphis, Selma, El Paso and all across America need to know that you are, indeed, keeping nearly six million men, women and children alive with your tax dollars,” Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, adding, “Actually, the total is much larger than that, America, because six million is just the number of people that are every single day taking anti-HIV medicines that they receive through programs that you fund.” She notes that American tax money pays for HIV prevention campaigns worldwide and medical research on antiretroviral drugs, diagnostic tests and other advances. “Though other countries and private donors contribute to the prevention and treatment of AIDS, none can match the sheer scale of what America is doing,” Garrett writes, adding, “A mere $6.6 billion this fiscal year — out of a total U.S. budget of $3.8 trillion — is the cost of our modern day, life-giving packages.” She concludes, “That’s 0.16 percent of the federal budget, to save millions of lives. What a bargain” (7/20).