Noting the successes of PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, former President George W. Bush writes in a Washington Post opinion piece that “[a]n important byproduct of this massive effort on HIV/AIDS has been the improvement of African health systems,” which “has raised an exciting prospect: to extend the gains on AIDS to other diseases.” Bush also discusses his work with the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, a public-private partnership initiative spearheaded by the Bush Institute to save women from breast and cervical cancer. Over the past decade a “global effort” has saved millions of lives, he says, adding, “It would be a sad and terrible thing if the world chose this moment to lose its focus and will.” Bush concludes, “Other countries and local governments in Africa can do more in providing resources and increasing funding … [b]ut to continue the momentum in the fight against AIDS, America must continue to lead” (7/22).
In this Kaiser Health News interview, KHN contributor Joanne Silberner talks with Gregg Millett, senior policy adviser in the Office of National AIDS Policy, ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference. According to the transcript, Millett says “the president’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy has improved coordination among federal agencies and that the 2010 [Affordable Care Act] will improve access to care for those living with HIV/AIDS” (7/23). In related news, the White House on Saturday released five fact sheets covering HIV/AIDS prevention, HIV/AIDS treatment, the global AIDS epidemic, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S., and HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination (7/21).
The Associated Press on Saturday examined the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda, where “[a] new government report says the prevalence of HIV in this East African nation increased from 6.4 percent in 2004 to 7.3 percent in 2011, a shocking statistic for a country once praised for its global leadership in controlling AIDS.” The news service highlights PEPFAR’s contributions to fighting the epidemic in Uganda, noting that “[a]t least half of the 600,000 Ugandans in need of AIDS treatment are able to access the drugs, mostly through PEPFAR.” According to the AP, “U.S. government officials have been pressing Uganda to devote more resources to AIDS and issues such as maternal health, saying dependency on foreign support is unsustainable in the long term.” On a recent trip to the country, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said meeting patients benefitting from PEPFAR-funded treatment “was confirmation of the fact that United States foreign aid works,” the AP writes (Muhumuza, 7/21).
“An international group of scientists on Sunday called for all adults who test positive for HIV to be treated with antiretroviral drugs right away rather than waiting for their immune systems to weaken,” Agence France-Presse reports. The guidelines, issued by the International Antiviral Society-USA, “are based on new trial data and drug regimens that have become available in the last two years which warrant an ‘update to guidelines for antiretroviral treatment in HIV-infected adults in resource-rich settings,'” the news agency writes (7/22). “In addition, data have shown that suppressing HIV reduces the risk of an infected person passing the virus to another person,” according to Reuters. The guidelines, which “echo those issued in March by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association at the start of the International AIDS Society’s 2012 conference, the news service notes (Beasley, 7/22).
Two dozen corporate leaders on Sunday signed a statement calling on 46 countries to lift restrictions on travelers who are living with HIV because the policies are discriminatory and bad for business, VOA’s “Breaking News” blog reports (7/22). Some corporations and organizations participating in the campaign include Levi Strauss, Anglo American, fashion merchants H&M and Gap, Coca-Cola, and pharmaceutical firms Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences and Merck, Agence France-Presse notes (7/22). According to an UNAIDS press release, “The pledge is an initiative of UNAIDS in partnership with GBCHealth, which is mobilizing the corporate signatures (7/22).
RECENT RELEASE: U.N. Secretary-General Appoints Special Envoy For HIV/AIDS In Eastern Europe, Central Asia
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday “appointed Michel Kazatchkine as his Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, one of only two regions in the world where HIV is continuing to grow,” a U.N. press release states. “Michel Kazatchkine is an internationally recognized physician who has devoted 30 years of his professional life to the AIDS response,” the press release notes, adding that he has served as executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and director of the French National Agency for AIDS Research (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.”
“‘We must overcome the global challenge of AIDS,’ a statement released yesterday from presidential candidate Mitt Romney says,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “He notes that the epidemic is ‘indiscriminate,’ takes ‘young and old,’ ‘leaves women and orphans,’ and often affects ‘those least able to help themselves,'” and “says America must continue to be ‘a beacon of hope for innovative research and support in overcoming the global challenge of AIDS,'” the blog writes (Barton, 7/21).
Noting the International AIDS Conference is being held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on an event with “government leaders, philanthropists, faith leaders, entrepreneurs and entertainers at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre [Saturday] night to recognize what the world has achieved in turning the tide on AIDS,” in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. Gates says the event “offered a great stage to share success stories and talk about the importance of sustained HIV funding,” and concludes, “Americans can be justifiably proud of the tremendous moral leadership that the U.S. has taken in producing breakthrough innovations in the fight against HIV” (7/22).
AVAC, previously known as the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, and amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, “have published ‘An Action Agenda to End AIDS’ [.pdf] — a combination of short- and long-term goals â€¦ to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” VOA News reports, noting, “The report is being released ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington.” The news service highlights several scientific advancements made in the last several years and writes that, according to the agenda, “making the hard choices,” as well as “‘mobilizing sufficient, sustainable resources’ to ensure that critical interventions are scaled-up and not cut back,” are essential steps to ending the epidemic” (De Capua, 7/20). The report “was informed by an analysis of modeling research and consultations with top HIV prevention experts,” a joint press release notes (7/23).