In this Kaiser Health News interview, KHN contributor Joanne Silberner talks with Gregg Millett, senior policy adviser in the Office of National AIDS Policy, ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference. According to the transcript, Millett says “the president’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy has improved coordination among federal agencies and that the 2010 [Affordable Care Act] will improve access to care for those living with HIV/AIDS” (7/23). In related news, the White House on Saturday released five fact sheets covering HIV/AIDS prevention, HIV/AIDS treatment, the global AIDS epidemic, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S., and HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination (7/21).
Global Health Conferences and Meetings
“An international group of scientists on Sunday called for all adults who test positive for HIV to be treated with antiretroviral drugs right away rather than waiting for their immune systems to weaken,” Agence France-Presse reports. The guidelines, issued by the International Antiviral Society-USA, “are based on new trial data and drug regimens that have become available in the last two years which warrant an ‘update to guidelines for antiretroviral treatment in HIV-infected adults in resource-rich settings,'” the news agency writes (7/22). “In addition, data have shown that suppressing HIV reduces the risk of an infected person passing the virus to another person,” according to Reuters. The guidelines, which “echo those issued in March by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association at the start of the International AIDS Society’s 2012 conference, the news service notes (Beasley, 7/22).
Two dozen corporate leaders on Sunday signed a statement calling on 46 countries to lift restrictions on travelers who are living with HIV because the policies are discriminatory and bad for business, VOA’s “Breaking News” blog reports (7/22). Some corporations and organizations participating in the campaign include Levi Strauss, Anglo American, fashion merchants H&M and Gap, Coca-Cola, and pharmaceutical firms Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences and Merck, Agence France-Presse notes (7/22). According to an UNAIDS press release, “The pledge is an initiative of UNAIDS in partnership with GBCHealth, which is mobilizing the corporate signatures (7/22).
“Hundreds of sex workers from around the world who said they were denied visas to attend an international AIDS conference in the United States began their own meeting in Kolkata on Saturday in protest,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Some 550 representatives of sex workers from India and 41 other countries were attending the seven-day event in the eastern Indian city, organizers said,” the news agency writes (Sil, 7/21). The International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) “return[ed] to American soil for the first time in more than 20 years, in recognition of President Barack Obama’s 2009 decision to lift the U.S. travel ban on people living with HIV,” the Guardian states, noting that “U.S. legislation still prohibits sex workers and drug users from entering the country.”
Noting the International AIDS Conference is being held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on an event with “government leaders, philanthropists, faith leaders, entrepreneurs and entertainers at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre [Saturday] night to recognize what the world has achieved in turning the tide on AIDS,” in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. Gates says the event “offered a great stage to share success stories and talk about the importance of sustained HIV funding,” and concludes, “Americans can be justifiably proud of the tremendous moral leadership that the U.S. has taken in producing breakthrough innovations in the fight against HIV” (7/22).
AVAC, previously known as the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, and amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, “have published ‘An Action Agenda to End AIDS’ [.pdf] — a combination of short- and long-term goals â€¦ to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” VOA News reports, noting, “The report is being released ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington.” The news service highlights several scientific advancements made in the last several years and writes that, according to the agenda, “making the hard choices,” as well as “‘mobilizing sufficient, sustainable resources’ to ensure that critical interventions are scaled-up and not cut back,” are essential steps to ending the epidemic” (De Capua, 7/20). The report “was informed by an analysis of modeling research and consultations with top HIV prevention experts,” a joint press release notes (7/23).
“Lack of money can no longer be considered a reason — or an excuse — for failing to treat all those with HIV who need drugs to stay alive, following game-changing work about to be published by the Clinton Foundation that shows the real cost is four times less than previously thought,” the Guardian reports. “The striking findings of a substantial study carried out in five countries of sub-Saharan Africa are hugely important and will set a new hopeful tone for the International Aids Conference in Washington, which open[ed] on Sunday,” the news service writes.
Noting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an AIDS-free generation last November in a speech at the National Institutes of Health, GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports on a discussion held Saturday at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), during which “several AIDS experts and U.S. officials gave their views on what it meant to reach an AIDS-free generation — and when it would happen.” The news service quotes several speakers at the event, including Chris Beyrer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health “who has served as a consultant to several U.S. agencies on AIDS issues,” Kevin De Cock, director of the Center for Global Health at the CDC, and event moderator Tom Quinn, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health (Donnelly, 7/22).
The XIX International AIDS Conference opened in Washington, D.C., on Sunday and “is expected to draw 25,000 people, including politicians, scientists and activists, as well as some of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV who will tell their stories,” Agence France-Presse reports (Sheridan, 7/22). “Researchers, doctors and patients attending the world’s largest AIDS conference are urging the world’s governments not to cut back on the fight against the epidemic when it is at a turning point,” the Associated Press writes, adding, “There is no cure or vaccine yet, but scientists say they have the tools to finally stem the spread of this intractable virus — largely by using treatment not just to save patients but to make them less infectious, too” (Neergaard, 7/22). “New breakthroughs in research will be announced, as will new efforts by governments and organizations to reduce the spread of HIV, to treat those who have it, and to work, eventually, toward a vaccine and a cure,” the Seattle Times writes (Tate, 7/22). According to the Washington Post’s “Blog Post,” three remaining challenges to be addressed at the conference include: “More research into treatment and prevention, and more ways to deliver treatments”; reaching marginalized populations, such as men who have sex with men and sex workers; and “[i]ncreasing funding for PEPFAR and other anti-AIDS programs” (Khazan, 7/20).
“[D]isappointingly, one group that will be absent [from the XIX International AIDS Conference next week] due to U.S. travel restrictions is sex workers,” a Lancet editorial states. “Sex workers have been extremely neglected as a population in the global response to HIV/AIDS, despite their substantially heightened risk of HIV infection and propensity to transmit new infections into general populations,” the editorial continues, adding, “Yet global funding allocations have been inadequate or restricted policies have been applied, such as the U.S. anti-prostitution pledge, which has greatly limited research and the response to HIV in sex workers. Furthermore, the conflation of sex work with human trafficking, and the disregard of sex work as work, has meant that sex workers’ rights have not been properly recognized.”