President Barack Obama on Thursday renewed the U.S. commitment to ending HIV/AIDS in a speech marking World AIDS Day, and was joined by former presidents Bill Clinton, who participated by video, and George W. Bush, who spoke from Tanzania with that country’s President, Jakaya Kikwete, the Independent reports (Popham, 12/1). According to the Associated Press, Obama announced U.S. “goal[s] of getting antiretroviral drugs to two million more people around the world by the end of 2013,” bringing the total to six million people, and “to 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent them from passing the virus to their children.” The news agency continues, “Despite Obama’s more ambitious goals,” which build on existing PEPFAR programs, “the plan’s budget is not expected to increase. Instead, officials said the expanded targets would be funded through savings achieved by making the program more efficient and cutting the costs of treatment” (Pace, 12/1).
Male circumcision is “a practice that — despite the evidence — has yet to be adopted as much or as fast as experts had hoped,” the Financial Times reports. “International organizations have publicly endorsed the importance of circumcision, and a number of guidelines have been established, but the response so far has been haphazard and funding remains modest,” the newspaper writes, adding, “One reason has been that much government donor and philanthropic support for HIV prevention work was focused instead on more ‘high-tech’ alternatives such as vaccines and microbicides” (Jack, 11/30).
Thursday, December 1 is World AIDS Day. The following is a summary of several opinion pieces published in recognition of the day.
The percentage of pregnant women living with HIV in South Africa “has inched up to 30.2 percent from 29.4 percent last year,” according to the annual National Antenatal Sentinel HIV and Syphilis Prevalence survey released by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in Pretoria on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports (11/29). The survey “sampled over 32,000 pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in October last year,” South Africa’s Times Live notes (11/30).
Al Jazeera examines HIV among women in India’s Manipur state, particularly in the district of Churachandpur, where local non-governmental organizations “say more than one-quarter of the women use some kind of drugs and suffer from HIV; many, due to a lack of financial opportunities, will end up turning to” sex work to obtain money to buy drugs, the news agency writes. There are no long-term treatment facilities for people who use drugs or those living with HIV in the area, and there are no official statistics on how many women are living with HIV and using drugs, Al Jazeera reports. “The United Nations says these women can no longer be ignored,” the news agency notes. Charles Gilks of UNAIDS India said the number of affected women must be determined and then organizations need to establish “interventions which those women can easily and reliably reach,” Al Jazeera reports (Suri, 11/30).
U.N. Progress Report On AIDS Stresses Advances In Treatment, Prevention, Warns About Declining Funding
“Global progress in both preventing and treating HIV emphasizes the benefits of sustaining investment in HIV/AIDS over the longer term,” according to a new report from the WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS, which also “indicates that increased access to HIV services resulted in a 15 percent reduction of new infections over the past decade and a 22 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths in the last five years,” a WHO press release reports (11/30). The report, titled “Progress report 2011: Global HIV/AIDS response,” notes that “[a]s capacity at all levels increases, programs are becoming more effective and efficient,” but “financial pressures on both domestic and foreign assistance budgets are threatening the impressive progress to date. Recent data indicating that HIV funding is declining is a deeply troubling trend that must be reversed for the international community to meet its commitments on HIV” (11/30).
GlobalPost examines the “collision of scientific advances vs. economic realities” in the fight against HIV/AIDS in a special report as part of its “Healing the World” series. “Thirty years after the discovery of AIDS, scientists believe for the first time that they now have the tools to beat back the deadly virus. … But the gloomy global economic situation, and recent scale-backs in HIV funding around the world, have cast great doubt as to whether policymakers will take advantage of the combination of new prevention tools to fight AIDS,” the article states, noting that “President Obama is expected on Thursday — World AIDS Day — to talk about his administration’s next steps on AIDS, … his first major speech on AIDS as president” (Donnelly, 11/30).
In this interview with GlobalPost’s John Donnelly, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, discusses “his perspective of the fight against AIDS at this moment, and how discoveries by scientists can now be best used.” Speaking about the “convergence of prevention approaches,” Fauci said, “There is now an enthusiasm and an excitement if we can implement some of these scientific advances, we can have a major impact in turning around the trajectory of the epidemic. The bottom line is we are pushing these advances in implementation so that we see the light at the end of the tunnel” (11/30).
In his ForeignPolicy.com column, Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation, writes that despite an “abundance of tools to fight the global AIDS epidemic,” including male circumcision and treatment as prevention, “the breakthroughs don’t amount to a global reprieve.” The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s announcement it is postponing Round 11 grants, “on top of news that donor funding for HIV/AIDS leveled in 2009 and then declined 10 percent in 2010, should be a wake-up call to focus on cost-effective responses,” he writes.
In this post on the Center for Global Development’s “Global Health Policy” blog, Jenny Ottenhoff, policy outreach associate at the Center, examines the prospects for U.S. spending on global AIDS programs. She writes “it seems we have reached a ‘tipping point’ where the science, technology and know-how are available to…