“Cellphones, those tiny gateways to modernity, have recently allowed prostitutes [in India] to shed the shackles of brothel madams and strike out on their own,” the New York Times reports, adding, “But that independence has made prostitutes far harder for government and safe-sex counselors to trace. And without the advice and free condoms those counselors provide, prostitutes and their customers are returning to dangerous ways.” According to studies, “prostitutes who rely on cellphones are more susceptible to HIV because they are far less likely than their brothel-based peers to require their clients to wear condoms,” the newspaper writes. The New York Times says a government program that provided condom advocacy posters in an area traditionally known for its concentration of brothels worked, “[b]ut now that mobile phones are untethering prostitution from brothels, those targeted measures are threatened” (Harris, 11/24).
UNAIDS’ World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, said the goal of eventually ending the global AIDS epidemic “is more than merely visionary” and “is entirely feasible,” primarily because of “historic success” in scaling up HIV programs and improving access to antiretroviral drugs to treat and prevent HIV, Reuters reports (Kelland, 11/20). According to the report, “[t]wenty-five countries, many in hard-hit Africa, have at least halved new HIV infections in the past decade, with particular progress made toward protecting children from the deadly virus,” Agence France-Presse writes (11/20). “UNAIDS says that half the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children,” PlusNews writes. “But the epidemic is not over in any part of the world, and is gaining pace in some,” the news service continues, noting the number of new infections has increased in the Middle East and North Africa (11/20). The report “stresses that countries must dramatically ramp up both [prevention and treatment efforts] if the world hopes to meet the ambitious goals agreed upon last year at a special session of the United Nations,” ScienceInsider writes (Cohen, 11/20).
AVAC and amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, on Tuesday released the first (.pdf) in a series of quarterly reports following up on the release of the Action Agenda to End AIDS (.pdf), which was launched in July at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), according to a joint press release. “New infections and AIDS deaths continue to decline, but not at a pace sufficient to meet the global goals of halving new infections among adults and eliminating new infections in children by 2015,” the report states and looks at data in the areas of strategy, investment, accountability, research, and efficiency (11/20).
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Board recently made several decisions that will affect the future of the organization, including appointing former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Mark Dybul as executive director and adopting a new funding model, Nature reports in an article examining the history and future of the Fund. “It has been a rough couple of years for the Global Fund,” but “[l]ast week’s appointment of Mark Dybul as executive director could signal a fresh start, and has been broadly welcomed,” Nature writes (Butler, 11/22). “As [Dybul] begins his four-year term in early February 2013, current Fund General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo will transition out of his position,” PlusNews reports, noting, “That position, created to guide the Fund through reforms proposed by a 2011 high-level review panel at a time of low donor confidence, will disappear.”
“Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has accepted a new role with [UNAIDS] to advance efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination against those affected by the epidemic,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “She accepted the invitation to serve as Global Advocate for Zero Discrimination during a recent meeting with UNAIDS’ Executive Director Michel Sidibe at her residence in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw,” the news service notes. “It is a great honor to be chosen as a champion for people who live on the fringes of society and struggle every day to maintain their dignity and basic human rights. I would like to be the voice of the voiceless,” Suu Kyi, who is a member of parliament in Myanmar, said, according to the news service (11/20). In a statement, Sidibe said, “From small villages to big cities, from Africa to Asia, people are talking about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi … She is inspirational,” according to Agence France-Presse (11/20).
UNAIDS’ new World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, “shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people,” according to a UNAIDS press release. Between 2001 and 2011, “a more than 50 percent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries — more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV,” the press release states, adding, “In addition to welcome results in HIV prevention, sub-Saharan Africa has reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 59 percent in the last two years alone.” According to the press release, “The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children,” and the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped because of increased access to antiretroviral treatment.
“‘Getting to Zero’ has been the slogan for World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) since 2011 and will remain so through until 2015, coinciding with the Millennium Development Goal target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and Adeeba Kamarulzaman, director of the Center of Excellence for Research in AIDS and dean of the Faculty of Medicine at University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, write in a New York Times opinion piece. “This offers a starting point for some more sanguine reflection on how, amid generalized talk of zeros, targets and goals, we can so easily lose sight of the extraordinary barriers that prevent them being reached in the first place,” they continue.
“In a bid to ensure the global fight against three of the world’s most devastating diseases remains efficient, the Board of the … Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria voted [Thursday] to begin an immediate transition” to a new grant-funding approach, the U.N. News Centre reports (11/15). The new funding model “is designed to be simpler, more flexible, and have greater impact in conquering the diseases,” according to Reuters. “The new system relies upon closer discussions with the recipient countries, along with other donor groups and experts, over the design of their disease-fighting programs”; “will focus on addressing the needs of the poorest countries with the highest number of infections”; and will allow flexible grant cycles “instead of falling in set time periods, so that they can be coordinated better with a country’s budgetary cycle, [the Board] said,” the news agency writes (Dawson, 11/15).
Speaking at the World Bank on Wednesday, “Irish rock star and anti-poverty activist Bono said thousands of people could die from AIDS if the United States cuts development assistance to reduce the budget deficit,” Reuters reports. Bono is in “Washington this week to urge politicians to spare U.S. development aid, as Congress is embroiled in negotiations aimed at preventing looming tax hikes and spending cuts known as the ‘fiscal cliff,'” the news agency writes. Citing “figures from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research,” Bono said “a shrinking U.S. budget for global health would leave more than 275,000 people without treatment for the autoimmune disease, leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths,” the news service writes (Yukhananov, 11/14). “We know there’s going to be cuts. … We understand that. But not cuts that cost lives,” Bono said, according to the Wall Street Journal (11/14). “Bono … also spoke to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday about the need for transparent data to fight corruption, and the deadline for eliminating poverty,” Reuters adds (11/14). “According to Bono, who peppered his serious speech with jokes, guaranteeing transparency would be the biggest ‘turbo-charger’ to the fight against extreme poverty,” the Manila Bulletin reports (11/15). Business Insider provides video footage of Bono’s discussion with Kim (Ro, 11/14).
The Wall Street Journal examines how “Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.” Noting “[o]ver the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of [malaria] and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece,” the newspaper writes, “The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge.” The Wall Street Journal examines the history of malaria’s return to the country and how the government is responding. “In addition to malaria, public health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV,” the newspaper notes (Granitsas, 11/14).