USA Today examines several scientific breakthroughs that researchers say “could be key to reducing new HIV infections.” “Doctors are hopeful not because of a single discovery, but because of a string of breakthroughs over the past two or three years, says Diane Havlir, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco,” the news service writes. “The power comes from putting them together,” Havlir, who is also an AIDS 2012 co-chair, said, according to USA Today. The news service discusses “landmark findings” in the areas of treatment as prevention, adult male circumcision, microbicides, and vaccines, among others (Szabo, 7/18).
In this Center for Global Development (CGD) “Global Prosperity Wonkcast,” Lawrence MacDonald, vice president for communications and policy outreach at CGD, interviews CGD senior fellow Mead Over, an expert on the economics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and Jenny Ottenhoff, CGD policy outreach associate, about the “state of the epidemic, budget austerity, and the U.S. role in the global response.” MacDonald summarizes the conversation in the blog post, and the podcast is available for download (7/16).
As part of its “AIDS Turning Point” series, GlobalPost examines how the United States and its African partners are designing clinical trials at four African sites to test whether a combination of prevention methods and strategies — “notably the vaccine-like preventative effect on transmission when someone starts taking AIDS drugs, as well as the life-long protection afforded to many due to male circumcision” — could “put them on the road to a Holy Grail: the numbers of HIV infections tumbling down.”
Advocates In Sri Lanka Call For Change To Laws That Criminalize, Stigmatize Sex Work, Same-Sex Relationships
“Sri Lanka has long enjoyed a low 0.1 percent HIV prevalence but, as the number of fresh infections rises steadily, experts are calling for a change in the country’s archaic laws that make sex work illegal and criminalizes homosexual activity,” Inter Press Service reports. “In the first quarter of the current year there were 40 new cases of HIV compared to 32 and 27 in the first quarters of 2011 and 2010 respectively, according to the National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP),” the news service notes, adding “an estimated 41,000 commercial sex workers (CSWs) and 30,000 men who have sex with men (MSMs)” live in Sri Lanka. “‘In the past two years new infections are seen to be rising among those below 24 years, and 50 percent of them are MSMs,’ says NSACP director Nimal Edirisinghe,” IPS writes.
Though the FDA’s Monday approval of the antiretroviral drug Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection among people at risk of contracting the virus “was hailed by many as an important step in the fight against AIDS, concerns that people will incorrectly use the drug — potentially spurring drug resistance — led others to blast the agency for not laying down tougher rules,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” writes. “Instead of requiring that people prove they are HIV-negative before getting a prescription filled, the FDA slapped a boxed warning on the drug, saying it must only be used by people who have a confirmed HIV-negative test prior to getting a prescription, and then get tested at least every three months while they are using it,” the blog notes (Marcus, 7/16).
The FDA on Monday announced the approval of the first drug for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among people at risk of contracting the virus, “which some are calling a landmark in the fight against AIDS,” ABC News reports (Geryk, 7/16). “The drug is Truvada, an antiretroviral medication made by Gilead Sciences, Inc., which was already approved by the FDA in 2004 to help control HIV infection,” CNN’s “The Chart” writes (7/16). “The new approval marks the first time the FDA has approved a drug” to reduce the risk of HIV infection, allowing Truvada “to be used in people who are considered at high risk of becoming infected with HIV, such as those who have an HIV-infected partner,” the Wall Street Journal notes (Dooren, 7/16). “The FDA said Truvada should be used as ‘part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy that includes other prevention methods, such as safe sex practices, risk reduction counseling, and regular HIV testing,'” Agence France-Presse adds (Sheridan, 7/16).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday named Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania, a former U.N. deputy secretary-general, as the new Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, according to a U.N. statement, PANA/Afriquejet reports. As deputy secretary-general from 2007 to 2012, Migiro “was integrally involved in promoting the AIDS response globally and within Africa, with special emphasis on reducing the vulnerability of women and girls and ensuring the rights of people living with HIV,” the news service writes (7/14).
“A cure for AIDS remains a distant prospect but a host of drug treatments and other advances have fueled fresh hope that new [HIV] infections may someday be halted for good,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Strategies for ending the 30-year AIDS epidemic through advances in treatment, testing and prevention are high on the agenda of” the XIX International AIDS Conference, “when it returns to the United States next week after two decades,” according to the news agency (Sheridan, 7/14). “Thanks to drugs that can control the virus for decades, AIDS is no longer a death sentence,” Reuters writes in an article examining AIDS vaccine research. “New infections have fallen by 21 percent since the peak of the pandemic in 1997 and advances in prevention — through voluntary circumcision programs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and early treatment — promise to cut that rate even more,” the news service states (Steenhuysen, 7/15).
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).