May 18 is World AIDS Vaccine Day, also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, and the following summarizes two opinion pieces recognizing the event.
“Afghanistan has begun work on a $30 million hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis [TB], a disease that health officials say kills more than 10,000 Afghans every year,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog reports. “The Japanese government is paying for the 80-bed center in the Afghan capital, which will also treat malaria and AIDS patients,” the news service writes, noting, “Japan is the second-largest donor to Afghanistan, after the United States.” VOA adds, “During Thursday’s groundbreaking in Kabul, Afghan Health Minister Suraya Dalil said Afghanistan ranks in the top 20 worldwide for the most TB patients,” and she noted the country has 2,000 centers nationwide that can diagnose and treat the disease (5/17).
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) President and CEO Margaret McGlynn discusses new modeling data from IAVI and the Futures Institute, with support from USAID, which “illustrates how a safe, preventive HIV vaccine that is accessible and affordable can help us end the AIDS pandemic.” The information, released in recognition of World AIDS Vaccine Day, also known as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, “is available in a series of publications and an interactive web tool,” according to McGlynn. She writes, “The world must continue to scale up and improve the response to HIV by using powerful prevention tools that are currently at our disposal. … Our new models show that a vaccine can build on these existing tools and take us down the last mile to the end of the AIDS pandemic” (5/18).
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria, launched a five-year, $224 million USAID program, titled Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS), that aims to “increas[e] access to high-quality comprehensive HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention, treatment, care and related services through improved efficiencies in service delivery,” the Daily Trust reports (Odeyemi/Odafor, 5/8).
UNAIDS on Tuesday launched a new campaign “aimed at ending new HIV infections among children by 2015 and ensuring mothers living with HIV remain healthy,” Xinhua reports (5/8). “The campaign, ‘Believe it. Do it.,’ is part of a global plan of action that was adopted last year at the U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS, when world leaders committed to end new HIV infections among children by 2015,” the U.N. News Centre writes (5/8). “Each year, about 390,000 children become newly infected with HIV and as many as 42,000 women living with HIV die from complications relating to HIV and pregnancy,” according to a UNAIDS press release (5/8).
The New York Times and the Financial Times examine concerns expressed by AIDS activists and members of an FDA panel that last week recommended Gilead Sciences’ antiretroviral drug Truvada be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. According to the New York Times, “Such a pill has long been a goal of research, something that might help stem a global epidemic that is still causing two million new worldwide cases each year, including 50,000 in the United States” (Grady, 5/14). The Financial Times says some have concerns over the real world efficacy of the drug; whether its approval would encourage reckless behavior, such as not using condoms; side effects that might require additional treatment; the development of drug-resistant HIV strains; and the cost of the drug.
NPR's 'All Things Considered' Examines How Greater Acceptance Of India's Gay Community Helps HIV Fight
NPR’s “Shots” blog includes an “All Things Considered” story that examines how “a 2009 benchmark ruling in Delhi’s High Court,” which “struck down a 148-year-old law known as Section 377, a holdover from British colonial rule that made homosexual acts illegal,” has led to a wider level of HIV outreach to Mumbai’s gay community. Vivek Anand, CEO of the Humsafar Trust, “which provides free HIV tests and other health services to Mumbai’s gay community,” said the ruling has helped health workers gain a better understanding of HIV prevalence among India’s gay population, the blog notes.
“The world is falling behind in its pledge to reduce HIV/AIDS infections and improve treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a U.N. report [.pdf] released Monday” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Associated Press reports. The report to the U.N. General Assembly “said that ‘critical challenges remain’ if the world is to make good on promises made at a U.N.-sponsored meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011,” the AP writes (Alt Powell, 4/30). “Among the targets set by the international community at the June 2011 high-level meeting are the elimination of new HIV/AIDS infections in children, cutting sexually transmitted infections by 50 percent, and delivering antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people,” Xinhua/China Daily notes (5/1).
“Each year, nearly 400,000 children are born with HIV globally, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a particular challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, an area characterized by weak health systems,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in the State Department “DipNote” blog. “Last year PEPFAR and UNAIDS joined with other partners to launch the Global Plan, an initiative to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive,” Goosby writes and reflects on a two-day mission to Nigeria with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe last week. He concludes, “Preventing new HIV infections in children is a smart investment that saves lives, and the United States is proud to partner with Nigeria and other countries in this cause” (4/30).
Trade officials met last week at the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization “to make progress on a proposal that would allow poor countries to provide inexpensive generic versions of lifesaving medications, rather than rely a single version of the same drugs under expensive patent monopolies,” but the U.S. “remained steadfast in rejecting proposals aimed at lowering the prices of existing medicines in poor countries,” the Huffington Post reports (Carter, 5/29). At the 18th session of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), delegates considered two proposals, according to Intellectual Property Watch. The news service notes that a South African proposal (.pdf), submitted on behalf of the African Group and the Development Agenda Group (DAG), would have assisted developing nations adapt their patent schemes “to make full use of the flexibilities available in the international patent system in the interest of public health,” and a U.S. proposal (.pdf) “warned against any weakening of patent protection as a solution to the lack of availability of medicine in developing countries” because, “the delegate said, less patent rights would be detrimental to innovation” (Saez, 5/25).