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).
The International AIDS Society (IAS) on Thursday in Washington, D.C., “released what they call a road map for research toward a cure for HIV — a strategy for global teams of scientists to explore a number of intriguing leads that just might, years from now, pan out,” the Associated Press reports (Neergaard, 7/20). “The … scientific strategy focuses efforts on key areas such as the reservoirs where human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) holes up in the body, and the small number of people worldwide who seem to have some natural resistance,” Agence France-Presse writes (Sheridan, 7/19). “The new strategy outlines seven main priorities for research straddling basic, translational, and clinical science if either a ‘sterilizing cure,’ which permanently removes the virus, or a ‘functional cure,’ which controls it for years without drugs, is to be found,” the Lancet notes (Corbyn, 7/20).
Ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference next week, UNAIDS on Wednesday launched a new report, titled “Together we will end AIDS” (.pdf), “that shows that a record eight million people are now receiving antiretroviral therapy [ARVs], and that domestic funding for HIV has exceeded global investments,” the U.N. News Centre reports (7/18). “In all low- and middle-income countries, the availability of antiretroviral drugs grew by more than 20 percent in just one year, compared to the latest figure of 6.6 million people covered in 2010, said the report,” Agence France-Presse writes (Sheridan, 7/19). “At that rate, the world should meet a U.N. goal of having 15 million people [in low- and middle-income countries] on treatment by 2015, the report found,” the Associated Press adds (Neergaard, 7/18). “Fewer people infected with HIV globally are dying as more of them get access to” ARVs, “particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,” Reuters notes (Beasley/Miles, 7/18). AIDS-related deaths “dropped 5.6 percent to 1.7 million in 2011 from the previous year,” Bloomberg writes, adding that deaths “peaked in 2005 and 2006 at 2.3 million and have been going down since then, according to the report” (Pettypiec/Langreth, 7/18).
More widespread use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to treat HIV infection has led to drug resistance in low- and middle-income countries, but the level “is not steep enough to cause alarm, said a survey released by the World Health Organization on Wednesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “In low- and middle-income countries, drug resistance stood at 6.8 percent in 2010, the WHO said in its first-ever report on the matter,” the news agency writes, adding, “High-income countries, many of which began widescale treatment for HIV years earlier and used single or dual therapies that can also encourage resistance, face higher rates of resistance, from eight to 14 percent, said the study” (Sheridan, 7/18).
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Jenny Ottenhoff, policy outreach associate at the center, says “four big issues will impact U.S. support for the global response to the [AIDS] epidemic over the coming year.” According to Ottenhoff, these issues include the FY 2013 budget; the upcoming presidential election; “looming, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that will be triggered under sequestration in January 2013”; and the potential reauthorization of PEPFAR, which will be decided in 2013. “These storm clouds over AIDS funding could turn out to have a silver lining if austerity creates pressures to improve the global response to AIDS in ways that make it more effective and efficient,” she writes (7/18).
Scientists Plan To Announce Research Strategy Aimed At Pursuing HIV/AIDS Cure, Wall Street Journal Reports
On July 19, ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., “prominent AIDS scientists plan to announce the first comprehensive research strategy aimed at pursuing new leads and addressing hurdles to a cure” for HIV/AIDS, the Wall Street Journal reports. “The announcement of the initiative will be followed by a two-day symposium on cure research,” the newspaper continues, noting, “Recent research has offered a glimpse of paths to a cure. That promise, together with breakthroughs in preventing transmission of the disease, is spurring optimism that the epidemic, which kills about 1.7 million people a year, can eventually be brought under control.” The newspaper highlights several cases and studies on prevention and treatment (McKay/Winslow, 7/18). The Associated Press/Washington Post features a video examining some of the research (Bradley, 7/19).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog features an interview with Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), in which she discusses a study of a vaginal ring containing the antiretroviral (ARV) dapivirine. The study, which “has been launched in Africa, mark[s] a step forward in the development of HIV protection for and under control of women,” the blog notes. Rosenberg addresses the importance of finding a female-controlled HIV prevention option, why women are more susceptible to HIV infection, and her motivation for becoming involved in HIV research, among other issues, according to the blog (Judem, 7/18).
The goal of an “AIDS-free generation” “requires an ambitious implementation-science agenda that improves efficiency and effectiveness and incorporates strategies for overcoming the stigma and discrimination that continue to limit the uptake and utilization of [treatment, prevention and care] services,” AIDS 2012 Co-Chair Diane Havlir of the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine and Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins Center for AIDS Research write in a New England Journal of Medicine opinion piece. They note that “[r]esearch efforts on HIV vaccines will also probably be key, and the field has been reinvigorated” by recent study results. “A combination approach to prevention that includes HIV treatment can generate tremendous gains in the short term by curtailing new HIV infections, but ending the AIDS epidemic will probably require a vaccine, a cure, or both,” they write.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet, deputy director of the Peace Corps, discusses the agency’s work in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support in an AIDS.gov blog post. “Last year alone, 52 percent of all Peace Corps Volunteers engaged in such work in communities overseas,” she writes, noting, “In 2013, through the Global Health Service Partnership, we look forward to placing doctors and nurses as adjunct faculty in training institutions in Africa.” She says that every volunteer working in Africa is trained in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, outlines how volunteers contribute to the fight against the disease, and concludes, “So many of today’s inequalities, such as poverty, hunger, and HIV/AIDS, still loom large in much of our world. But, even as we face new challenges, we must continue to work together to make sure we can achieve an AIDS-free generation” (7/18).