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U.N. Says Asia Pacific Region Making Strides Against HIV/AIDS, Must Address Social And Legal Barriers To Treatment, Prevention

The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (ESCAP) on Monday in Bangkok “opened a three-day meeting lauding impressive gains in recent years in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” but the body cautioned “there are still legal and social barriers that significantly set back eradication efforts,” VOA News reports. U.N. ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer “note[d] the gains are uneven and there are still gaps in the goal of universal access to HIV treatment,” the news service writes.

Debate Continues Over Needle/Syringe Exchange Programs

Matt Fisher, a research assistant at the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center, summarizes the ongoing debate in Congress over needle and syringe exchange programs (NSEPs) in this post on the blog. He presents a history of NSEPs and notes, “President Obama recently signed the FY12 omnibus spending bill that, among other things, reinstated the ban on the use of federal funds for needle and syringe exchange programs (NSEPs); this step reversed the 111th Congress’ 2009 decision to allow federal funds to be used for these programs.” He concludes that despite scientific evidence that NSEPs are an effective public health intervention, “ideological and moral opposition remains,” and therefore, “the issue of federal funding will continue to be actively debated” (2/6).

Action Needed To Reach Ambitious Targets Set Forth In President’s World AIDS Day Speech

President Barack Obama’s December 1 World AIDS Day speech “could be pivotal, but only if it is followed by changes in how we tackle global AIDS,” Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, writes in this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece. “Obama signaled a renewed U.S. commitment to funding for global AIDS programs at a time when resources at home are constrained and other countries are backing away from the fight,” he writes, adding, “Now it’s time to plot a course for implementing the president’s vision.”

Supporting Scientific Evidence Under PEPFAR To End AIDS

On Wednesday, several HIV experts spoke at a Capitol Hill briefing “supporting the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program’s reliance on scientific evidence to drive its work to end AIDS,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The speakers, including Diane Havlir of the University of California, San Francisco, RJ Simonds of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Renee Ridzon of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, talked about using antiretroviral treatment as a prevention method, the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision, and preventing HIV among marginalized populations at high risk of infection (Mazzotta, 2/3).

African Scientists’ Search For Female-Controlled Microbicide Gel To Prevent HIV Continues examines efforts by African researchers to develop a female-controlled HIV prevention method, writing, “[S]cientists searching for a gel or vaccine that can prevent HIV infection ride a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment.” The article profiles efforts by researchers from the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) to find a microbicide gel to protect women from HIV infection.

Kenyan AIDS Official Says Country Has Sufficient Funding To Support Programs Through 2016

Kenya has sufficient funds to support HIV/AIDS treatment programs through 2016, the head of the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) said in a statement on Wednesday after activists protested on Monday in support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Star reports. The Global Fund had to cancel Round 11 grants because “the cash at hand was not in the bank by the time we wanted to disburse,” according to the Fund’s Deputy Executive Director Debrework Zewdie, a move that sparked fears there would not be sufficient funding to pay for existing treatment programs, the Star notes (Muchangi, 2/2). In his statement, NACC head Alloys Orago said, “Though the available fund cushions beneficiaries from immediate effects of donor withdrawal up to 2016, such a move calls for home grown and innovative ways of locally financing the disease,” according to the Daily Nation (2/2).

DRC Facing Decline In Donor Funding, HIV Treatment Shortage

“The lives of thousands of HIV-positive people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are at risk as the country faces declining donor funding and a severe shortage of HIV treatment, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF),” PlusNews reports. “‘The problem is quite old in the DRC; the country has always been minimized by donors who have not seen it as a priority, mainly because HIV prevalence is relatively low at between three and four percent,’ Thierry Dethier, advocacy manager for MSF Belgium in the DRC, told IRIN/PlusNews,” and he added, “But look at the indicators: more than one million people are living with HIV, 350,000 of whom qualify for [antiretrovirals (ARVs)] but only 44,000 — or 15 percent — are on ARVs,” the news service writes.

Capitol Hill Briefing Examines PEPFAR Work

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog describes a Capitol Hill briefing that was held Wednesday “to discuss the various evidence-based approaches to prevent HIV infection that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program is implementing on the ground in the countries hardest hit by the AIDS pandemic.” According to the blog, “The briefing was the first in a series that will be hosted by the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator in the months leading up to the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July. This briefing was co-hosted by the Center, the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and PEPFAR (Mazzotta, 2/1).

One Part Of HIV/AIDS Series Examines Germany’s Government Policies Surrounding Epidemic

As part of a week-long series, titled “Generation Positive,” looking at the HIV epidemic in the U.S. and Washington, D.C., WTOP’s Thomas Warren examines the history of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. compared with Germany, where he traveled as a fellow with the RIAS Berlin Kommission. The article describes “the history of HIV in Germany, including the governmental policies aimed at handling the disease and how the virus is treated medically,” according to the introduction (Warren, 2/1).

Media Outlets Examine Global Fund’s Future As It Enters Second Decade

The Guardian examines the future of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as it enters its second decade, writing, “Despite its staggering successes — including helping put 3.3 million people on AIDS treatment, 8.6 million on anti-tuberculosis treatment and providing 230 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria — the fund’s recent troubles had threatened to overshadow its accomplishments as it prepared to mark a decade as the world’s main financier of programs to fight these three global epidemics.” The news service highlights a $750 million pledge to the Fund by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses recent managerial changes within the Fund, and quotes a number of experts about future challenges (Kelly, 2/2).