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).
Though South Africa has made progress against HIV/AIDS over the past few years, the country’s “health minister says much more needs to be done,” VOA News reports. Health officials from South Africa’s Medical Research Council on Thursday said the mother-to-child transmission rate dropped from 3.5 percent in 2010 to 2.7 percent in 2011, getting the country closer to its goal of reaching a two percent rate by 2015, the news service notes. But Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi “told reporters Thursday in Johannesburg that 60 percent of HIV/AIDS patients are female and they must be the focus to stem the epidemic in the country,” VOA writes, adding, “Motsoaledi is urging everyone to seek regular HIV testing in an effort to reduce the epidemic and diminish the disease’s stigma” (Powell, 7/19).
“[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.”
“President Barack Obama has a standing invitation to speak at the [XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., next week], and he likely would be welcomed with loud cheers given his progressive HIV/AIDS policies,” journalist Jon Cohen writes in a Slate opinion piece. “But Obama apparently can’t carve out the time, which both runs the risk of angering a volatile community and squandering a historic opportunity,” he continues. Though some “U.S. government officials who have made presentations at the meeting … have weathered humiliating greetings, … Obama would face none of this hostility,” Cohen writes, noting that the U.S. “today spends more money on HIV/AIDS research than all countries combined and also is the single most generous donor to the global effort to combat the disease.”
Sixty organizations and Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Thursday released a “Call for a U.S. Government AIDS-Free Generation Strategic Plan” (.pdf) that “asks the Obama administration to put Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in charge of a task force to complete a [five-year] strategy in time to be announced by the next World AIDS Day — Dec. 1, 2012,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Barton, 7/19). The letter states, “A U.S. government AIDSâ€Free Generation Strategic Plan would take into full account recent developments in programmatic experience, the Global Fund reform process, technological breakthroughs and new science, therefore it would supplant prior strategies. This effort is envisioned to model the successful outcome and impact of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States,” and lists elements the plan would include (7/19).
“Ahead of the International AIDS Conference next week in Washington, D.C., Martin Bloem, chief of Nutrition and HIV Policy at the World Food Programme, shares the impact of food and nutrition on the HIV response,” in this post in the ONE Blog. “Scientific evidence and our own experience shows that nutrition activities for people living with HIV — including nutritional assessments, counseling, education and fortified food for malnourished patients — has significant impacts on the health of patients, on their ability to stay on treatment and on the effectiveness of treatment,” he writes (7/19).
“Urban America continues to suffer high rates of HIV despite successes of antiretroviral treatment that can suppress the virus, decrease transmission, prevent progression to AIDS, and lower death rates,” Gregory Pappas, senior deputy director of the Washington, D.C., Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA), writes in a Washington Blade opinion piece. “The global U.S. response known as the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) succeeded by enhancing funding, coordinating government efforts and working across jurisdictions,” he states, adding, “A domestic PEPFAR would emphasize enhanced spending, promote regional data, and plan and coordinate services regionally.”
“African nations are not receiving adequate international funding to fight HIV/AIDS, leaving them to face catastrophic consequences without enough medication, an independent, global medical and humanitarian organization said Thursday,” the Associated Press reports. “In a statement released in Johannesburg ahead of the [AIDS 2012] conference in Washington starting July 22, [Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)] said African countries worst affected by the pandemic were the least able to provide ‘the best science’ available to fight it,” the news service writes.
Noting that Washington, D.C., has an adult HIV prevalence rate higher than some southern African countries that receive PEPFAR funding, GlobalPost writes that the International AIDS Conference, to be held in the U.S. for the first time in 22 years starting Sunday, has highlighted “that America is nowhere close to an AIDS-free generation at home.” The news service continues, “Attendees hope AIDS 2012 will help set the agenda, both globally and domestically, as leaders, activists, and advocates from around the world discuss the achievements made and the goals ahead.” GlobalPost notes that it co-produced a segment examining the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic with PBS NewsHour that aired on Thursday (Judem, 7/19).
The Washington Blade compares U.S. HIV/AIDS efforts under the administrations of former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. According to the news service, “Some praise the Obama administration for laying out a comprehensive plan and bumping up domestic funding to confront the epidemic, while others yearn for the Bush days because of the global initiatives the Republican president started.” The article goes on to highlight major accomplishments and criticisms of each administration (Johnson, 7/19).