The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) on Tuesday published a report (.pdf) titled “The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic,” which “condemns the drug war as a failure and recommends immediate, major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime to halt the spread of HIV infection and other drug war harms,” according to the report summary (6/26). In the report, the GCDP “urged the U.N. to ‘acknowledge and address the causal links between the war on drugs and the spread of HIV/AIDS and drug market violence,'” Agence France-Presse/Straits Times reports (6/26). “It also wants the United Nations groups to push national governments to stop arresting and imprisoning people who use drugs but do no harm to others,” Canada’s CTV News writes, adding, “Instead, government should focus on evidence-based drug-reduction interventions, such as safe injection sites and prescription heroin programs” (6/26).
USA Today features a Q&A on Truvada, an antiretroviral drug that a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel in May recommended be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. The newspaper includes comments from different experts on the drug, saying implementation and cost are two major hurdles to its use for PrEP. Carlos del Rio, chair of the Emory Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health, co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research, and a board member at HIVMA (the HIV Medicine Association), said that if the drug is approved for use as a prevention tool, “I don’t think, honestly, in the short term, this is going to have much impact in the U.S., much less globally. … It’s a tool, but at the current price of up to $14,000 a year per individual, it’s simply not possible to think this will have an immediate impact in the epidemic globally,” according to the newspaper. The FDA is expected to make a decision later this summer, USA Today notes (Manning, 6/25).
U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby “discussed lessons learned from the U.S. response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past decade at an event hosted by the Brookings Institute Monday morning,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “While calling recent scientific advances in HIV prevention ‘game changers’ that have offered hope of an AIDS-free generation, [Goosby said] that the successful fight against the epidemic relies on recognizing AIDS-specific efforts so far as a foundation for further health gains, on country ownership, and on continuing to build ‘the shared responsibility’ of a multi-donor response,” the blog adds.
Vatican Official Calls On International Community To Provide 'Free, Efficient' HIV Treatment In Africa
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state and number two official, “called Friday on the international community to provide ‘free and efficient treatment’ for AIDS in Africa, starting with pregnant women, mothers and their babies,” Agence France-Presse reports (6/22). During a conference sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, which operates the DREAM program (Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition) in 10 African countries, “Bertone said the results of DREAM and research by the World Health Organization ‘confirm that universal access to care is achievable, scientifically proven and economically feasible,'” the Catholic News Service writes.
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog summarizes an event held Thursday, titled “AIDS-free Generation? Not Without Women,” that was sponsored by the National Council of Women’s Organizations. The session aimed “to draw attention to pivotal issues surrounding the impact of AIDS on women worldwide” ahead of the International AIDS Conference, the blog states. Speakers at the event included Katherine Fritz, global health director at the International Center for Research on Women, and Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health And Gender Equity (CHANGE), according to the blog, which notes “CHANGE recently released two reports on the implementation of the Global Health Initiative and reproduction health care in Guatemala and Ethiopia, concluding that GHI principles could be used to enhance services and conditions in both countries” (Barton, 6/22).
No Definitive Link Between Hormonal Contraceptives And Increased Link Of HIV Infection Among Women, CDC Says
“There is no clear link between the use of contraceptives such as the birth control pill or Depo-Provera shots and an increased risk that a woman will contract HIV, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday,” Reuters reports, noting that the WHO came to the same conclusion in February. Following a review of recent studies suggesting women taking hormonal contraceptives might be at an increased risk of HIV infection, “the Atlanta-based CDC said, ‘the evidence does not suggest’ a link between oral contraceptives such as the birth control pill and increased HIV risk,” the news agency writes. CDC officials said though the evidence for injectable contraceptives is inconclusive, they too are safe, according to Reuters. “Women at risk for HIV infection or who already have the virus ‘can continue to use all hormonal contraceptive methods without restriction,’ the CDC said,” the news agency writes. However, “the CDC also said it was ‘strongly’ encouraging the use of condoms as a precaution against the virus that causes AIDS,” Reuters notes (Beasley, 6/21).
In the third of a series of entries in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, titled “A Daughter’s Journey,” Tracy Jarrett, a GlobalPost/Kaiser Family Foundation global health reporting fellow, visits a USAID-funded HIV clinic at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. The clinic’s Perinatal HIV/AIDS Research Unit (PHRU) focuses on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) with funding from USAID and PEPFAR, she states, noting that the “clinic has been a game changer for mothers in Soweto [township] and an example for other PMTCT clinics throughout South Africa” (6/21). Jarrett, whose mother died of AIDS-related complications, is traveling “from Chicago to New York to South Africa to report on what is being done to keep babies and their mothers alive, to fight against stigma and to help those infected while reporting on what is still left to do to achieve an ‘AIDS-free generation,'” according to the first post in her series (6/15). The second post also is available online (6/19).
In an effort to “raise awareness around the U.S. global response to HIV/AIDS,” the AIDS.gov blog has republished a post by U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby in which he discusses the XIX International AIDS Conference, taking place in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years from July 22-27. He notes, “The conference theme, Turning the Tide Together, underscores the pivotal moment in which AIDS 2012 is taking place,” and discusses the role that the U.S. has played in achieving scientific progress in the fight against AIDS since it was identified 30 years ago (6/21).
“Zimbabwean lawmakers started taking public HIV tests on Wednesday in a campaign seeking to raise awareness and fight the stigma associated with AIDS,” VOA News reports, adding, “At least 60 parliamentarians from across the political divide will have tested when the three-day program, which is also offering counseling services, ends Friday.” According to the news service, “The Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV/AIDS, a voluntary organization formed early this year to promote awareness and fight stigma in communities, is leading the campaign” (Gumbo/Gonda, 6/21).
GlobalPost Examines Investment In Community Care Workers In South Africa As PEPFAR Moves Toward Local Implementation Of Programming
“Nearly a decade after it came into being, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) … is moving increasingly to support local leadership and implementation capacity” in South Africa, GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. “And given the South African health system’s weaknesses in the face of the magnitude of AIDS and TB, that means an investment in … lay listeners with just a few weeks of training,” who can discuss treatment and other issues with patients, the blog writes. The blog profiles Goodness Henama, “one of 22 community care workers in Wallacedene township, in the Cape Town suburb of Kraainfontein.”