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.
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
“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).
In this post in the Human Rights and HIV/AIDS “Now More Than Ever” blog, Michel Kazatchkine, the former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and newly-appointed special envoy to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, examines why human rights are “so central to the AIDS response.” He writes, “An urgent mobilization is needed to respond to the epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including much greater attention to, and involvement of marginalized and criminalized populations, particularly people who use drugs, sex workers, and gay men and other men who have sex with men,” adding, “As Special Envoy, I will continue to speak out loudly and clearly about the need to devote much greater attention to human rights. And I pledge to listen to the voices of those who too often are excluded” (7/26).
Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, published three new blog posts last week examining issues discussed at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012). The mood at the conference was “strangely optimistic,” as scientists, politicians, and advocates discussed the “end of AIDS,” she writes in one, adding, “The pandemic will not be over until the number of new infections hits zero, and the annual death toll plummets to insignificant levels.” In another, she states, “The newfound optimism that imbues this gathering of some 25,000 people in Washington, DC, is based on a few genuinely important breakthroughs. But while these insights offer hope of saving millions of lives and limiting a tidal wave of human suffering, they do not add up to the much-vaunted ‘end of AIDS.'” In a third, Garrett examines funding for the HIV/AIDS response and describes a debate that took place among experts and economists at the World Bank (7/27).
“Charged by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with developing a blueprint for the next phase of the [U.S. government’s] involvement in the fight against HIV and AIDS, [U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby] … will lead an interagency effort to give clearer meaning to the term, ‘AIDS-free generation,’ and provide a basis for programming,” Sharon Stash, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) Global Health Policy Center, writes in the CSIS “Smart Global Health” blog. “Clearly the notion of an ‘AIDS-free generation’ within our reach is a powerful one,” she writes, and asks, “Is the meaning it inspires powerful enough to attract and keep the attention of national policymakers, already burdened with competing priorities in a tight economic environment?” (7/29).