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Reuters Examines Challenges To Implementing 'Treatment As Prevention,' Other HIV Prevention Strategies In Current Economic Climate

In an “Insight” feature article, Reuters examines how new information on the prevention benefits of HIV treatment and other strategies, such as male circumcision, “could finally break the back of the AIDS epidemic.” But, “[w]ith some recession-strapped donor countries already struggling to meet their current commitments for treatment and prevention programs, AIDS activists worry that money, and not science, could hold up progress,” the news agency states. “‘The benefits of early detection and treatment have never been more clear, but countries have never been more challenged to provide needed resources,’ Kaiser Family Foundation [President and CEO] Drew Altman said in a statement,” the news service writes. Reuters highlights the results of several studies, discusses the challenges of “treatment as prevention,” and looks at the costs associated with implementing that and other strategies. “One hesitation is that the drugs work so well that people who take them can live basically a normal life, which means countries are on the hook for a lifetime of treatment,” the news service writes, adding, “The challenge is trying to sell the prevention aspect of treatment as cost-effective.” Reuters notes, “HIV/AIDS experts will test these efforts — along with less costly approaches, such as counseling, condom use and circumcision — in as many as 50 studies globally to see how well they work in real-world settings” (Steenhuysen, 9/6).

Researchers, Policymakers To Gather At AIDS Vaccine 2012 Conference In Boston

“With a completed trial in Thailand that offered evidence a vaccine could be developed to protect people from HIV, emerging science identifying antibodies against HIV, and a current trial testing a novel vaccine combination against the virus potentially producing more information in the next year, this is an exciting time to hold a conference, organizers of AIDS Vaccine 2012 say,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “AIDS Vaccine 2012, which begins this Sunday and runs through Wednesday in Boston, will bring together about 1,000 participants, 120 scientists and scholars, discussion of 440 research studies, and speakers that, along with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, will include researchers known for work in HIV treatment as prevention of transmission, pre-exposure antiretroviral treatment as prevention (PrEP — or pre-exposure prophylaxis), and topical microbicides,” the blog notes (Barton, 9/6).

NPR Blog Examines 'Test And Treat' Approach As HIV/AIDS Prevention Tactic

NPR’s “Shots” blog examines the “test and treat” approach to HIV care and prevention, which “relies on the fact that taking HIV drugs dramatically reduces a person’s risk of transmitting the virus to others,” and, “[a]s more and more people are put on medication, the epidemic theoretically should fizzle out.” The blog continues, “Test and treat sounds good on paper, but some doctors and policymakers have doubts about its feasibility on a large scale.”

Democrats, Republicans Find 'Common Ground' In Acknowledging Bush's AIDS Work

In Foreign Policy’s “Passport” blog, Associate Editor Uri Friedman reflects on former President George W. Bush’s efforts against AIDS, highlighting PEPFAR, which he “established in 2003 and which now supports antiretroviral treatment for 4.5 million people around the world.” Friedman quotes former President Bill Clinton, who, speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, said, “I have to be grateful, and you should be too, that President George W. Bush supported PEPFAR. It saved the lives of millions of people in poor countries.” Friedman continues, “[W]hat’s particularly notable about the reference is that, during a convention season designed to draw sharp distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, the two parties have found common ground on at least one point: the success of Bush’s efforts to fight AIDS.”

PlusNews Examines Recently Approved Grants Under Global Fund's Transitional Funding Mechanism

PlusNews examines the recently approved grants under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s Transitional Funding Mechanism (TFM), stating, “Last week, the Fund announced that 45 new grant applications, from countries such as Burundi, Malawi and Swaziland, have been approved under the TFM.” The news service notes, “Almost 25 percent of this combined total will go towards [tuberculosis (TB)], which represents a significant increase from the average 16 percent of funds allocated for TB since the Global Fund was created in 2002, according to a StopTB Partnership statement released in response” to the fund’s announcement. PlusNews notes, “Unlike regular grants, which can run for up to five years, those awarded under the TFM will be limited to two years, by which time the fund is expected to have launched its new funding model” (9/4).

Kenya To Investigate Allegations Of Forced Sterilizations Among HIV-Positive Women

“Kenya has launched an investigation after researchers claimed HIV-positive women were being routinely sterilized without their consent in government hospitals,” the Guardian reports. The African Gender and Media Initiative issued a report “based on interviews with 40 women, suggest[ing] the practice was widespread and ongoing,” according to the newspaper. “The report also includes examples of coercive tactics used by medical staff to obtain consent — for instance, threatening to withhold antiretroviral medication or baby milk if the woman did not agree to the procedure,” the newspaper writes. “‘These allegations are very serious and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board is going to investigate them before appropriate action is taken,’ Shariff Shahnaz, the director of public health, told the Daily Nation newspaper,” the Guardian reports (Mojtehedzadeh, 9/4).

IPS Examines Challenges To Slowing Spread Of HIV In Eastern Europe, Central Asia

“Despite pledges from governments across Eastern Europe and Central Asia to fight HIV/AIDS — one of the eight Millennium Development Goals — the region has the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemic,” Inter Press Service reports in an article examining challenges to stemming the spread of the disease, particularly among injection drug users. “Punitive drug policies, discrimination and problems with access to medicines and important therapy are all driving an epidemic which is unlikely to be contained, world experts say, until governments in countries with the worst problems change key policies and approaches to the disease,” the news service writes. According to experts and activists, a lack of opiate-substitution therapy (OST) and needle-exchange programs, as well as discrimination against and “active persecution” of drug users who try to access therapy programs, contributes to the spread of HIV, IPS notes (Stracansky, 9/3).

S. African, S. Korean Research Team Developing Smartphone HIV Testing Device, Application

Researchers from South Africa and South Korea are developing a smartphone-based device and application able to “photograph and analyze blood samples in areas far from laboratories to diagnose HIV and even measure the health of [patients’] immune systems,” Agence France-Presse reports. The device, called Smartscope, is a small microscope that clips over a phone’s camera and holds a standard chip with a blood sample, the news service notes, adding the camera then photographs the sample and the application analyzes the photo to produce a CD4 cell count. “The team hopes that trials in clinics may start next year,” according to AFP (8/31).

Delegates To Latin America, Caribbean Forum On AIDS, STIs Discuss Progress, Challenges

“More than 4,000 delegates — including government officials, health experts, community leaders, scientists, indigenous populations, youth and people living with HIV — convened from 28-31 August in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the 6th Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” UNAIDS reports in a feature story. “[T]he forum provided an opportunity to take stock of progress, challenges and lessons learned in HIV responses across the region,” according to UNAIDS, which adds, “Participants engaged on a range of issues, from AIDS financing and new HIV prevention technologies to strategies for closing treatment access gaps.” The article expands on several of these issues (8/31).

Aidspan Founder, Executive Director Bernard Rivers Stepping Down

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog profiles Bernard Rivers, founder and executive director of Aidspan, a watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who is leaving his position after 10 years. “He will not be running Aidspan anymore, but plans to continue to research and write about Global Fund issues,” the blog states. In the blog, Rivers discusses his motivation behind founding Aidspan and his hopes for the future of the Global Fund (Barton, 8/30).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.