“[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).
“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 2010 reversal of the HIV travel and immigration ban allowing the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to be held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, “It is so exciting to host this conference at such a pivotal time in the history of the AIDS response,” and adds, “At no other time in history has our global leadership been more important than it is right now.” With nearly 25,000 people from about 200 countries expected to gather in Washington, D.C., for the conference July 22-27, “These leaders in the global HIV and AIDS fight will showcase their incredible efforts and achievements on our own soil” and “have the opportunity to develop new solutions in addressing the ongoing challenges posed by HIV/AIDS in our own country and around the world,” Lee writes.
Trade Agreements Could Harm Access To Antiretroviral Drugs In Asia, Pacific, Experts And Activists Warn
“Pressure on developing countries to adopt clauses affecting intellectual property rights could limit access to generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in Asia and the Pacific, experts and activists warn,” PlusNews reports. According to Steven Kraus, director of the UNAIDS program in Asia and the Pacific region, only about one-third of the people in need of treatment in the region receive it, and the long-term sustainability of even that proportion will be challenging in the current economic climate, the news service notes. Kraus said World Trade Organization (WTO) member states should take advantage of flexibilities under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to manufacture and procure generic versions of medications “to ensure sustainability and the significant scale-up of HIV services to reach people most in need,” PlusNews continues.
PEPFAR’s gender-based violence (GBV) initiative is bringing “new momentum” and attention to the intersection of HIV and GBV, Janet Fleischman, senior associate at the Global Health Policy Center of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), writes in a post on the center’s “Smart Global Health” blog. She describes the findings of a report (.pdf) for which she traveled to “Tanzania to examine how the GBV initiative is being implemented,” writing, “I found that, although still early in implementation and facing many challenges, the GBV initiative has the potential to yield important lessons about synergies in reducing GBV and HIV, with clear implications for U.S. global health investments” (7/11).
African Leaders Should 'Take Action' To Implement Human-Rights Based Laws, Policies To Enhance HIV Response
Noting the release of a report (.pdf) from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law showing that “punitive laws are standing in the way of effective AIDS responses,” Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana, and Stephen Lewis, co-director and co-founder of AIDS-Free World, both members of the commission, write in a health-e opinion piece, “We cannot hope for an HIV-free generation when we have laws that marginalize and punish those most vulnerable to the disease.” They state that certain laws and customs in Africa “undermine the ability of women to protect themselves” and marginalize sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM).
“Activists are reigniting their attacks against President Obama’s record on battling AIDS ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Washington later this month,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports. “Two weeks before the conference of 20,000 leading researchers, patients and advocates, the administration has yet to confirm Obama’s attendance,” the blog writes, noting “the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in a teleconference with reporters on Monday said Obama shouldn’t bother showing up unless he’s going to pledge a renewed commitment to the international fight against AIDS.” In 2009, Obama lifted a ban that prevented people living with HIV to enter the U.S., allowing the conference to be held in the country for the first time in 22 years, the blog notes.
The WHO “says comprehensive HIV treatment strategies are needed in developing countries to overcome stigma and discrimination,” because “often those in need of HIV treatment and prevention are unable to receive [the services] because of their social status,” VOA News reports. Certain populations, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and people who inject drugs, sometimes face “barriers … to access services,” Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO HIV/AIDS Department, said, adding, “And we obviously see that as a consequence in many places these groups have higher infection rates. They have higher mortality, etcetera,â€ according to the news service.
Punitive Laws, Human Rights Violations Inhibiting Global AIDS Response, Global Commission On HIV And Law Report Says
“Punitive laws and human rights abuses are costing lives, wasting money, and stifling the global AIDS response,” according to a report (.pdf) released Monday by the independent Global Commission on HIV and the Law, which estimated the number of new HIV infections worldwide could be halved from 2.1 million to 1.2 million annually with changes in law and public policy, BMJ reports (Roehr, 7/9). The report, “based on 18 months of extensive research and analysis, as well as first-hand accounts from more than 1,000 people in 140 countries,” “finds evidence that governments in every region of the world have wasted the potential of legal systems in the fight against HIV,” according to the U.N. News Centre. The commission comprises “former heads of state and leading legal, human rights and HIV experts, and [is] supported by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),” the news service notes (7/9).
The 2012 International AIDS Conference, which will take place in Washington, D.C., from July 22-27, “will highlight a sense of optimism among top HIV researchers about stemming the spread of the virus around the globe,” according to PRI’s “The World.” In an audio report, anchor Lisa Mullins “talks to Peter Piot, former executive director of UNAIDS, about the new optimism and his career as a virus hunter.”