Noting successes with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and PEPFAR, as well as other domestic and international programs, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) writes in a Politico opinion piece, “But this is not enough.” He continues, “The Obama administration has the opportunity to push for policies that can offer developing nations more access to generic ARV therapies,” including supporting intellectual property rules under the Trans-Pacific Partnership “that would help speed up — not impede — generic drug competition in countries like Vietnam.” Waxman adds, “We should also back efforts to give developing countries more flexibility in interpreting the World Trade Organization’s patent rules for medicines,” and the administration “should … promote the Medicines Patent Pool, a bold initiative to bring down prices of HIV medicines by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily license their patents and allow generic manufacturers to sell in developing countries.” Waxman concludes that the U.S. should be proud of its leadership on HIV/AIDS, “[b]ut our work is far from done. Supporting reliable access to generic medicines in the developing world is a much-needed step in getting us there” (7/24).
OPINION: Partnerships, Dedication Within Pharmaceutical Industry Have 'Contributed Greatly' To AIDS Progress
PhRMA President and CEO John Castellani reflects on the role of partnerships and dedication within the pharmaceutical industry in the global AIDS response in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, writing, “The determination to research and develop medicines to fight HIV/AIDS has contributed greatly to the steady decrease in AIDS-related deaths worldwide, from the peak of 2.1 million in 2004 to an estimated 1.8 million in 2009, according to the 2010 UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.” He highlights three global AIDS challenges — “ensuring new medicines and training are available on an emergency basis, forging innovative partnerships that build a sustainable infrastructure that enables safe delivery of treatment and licensing manufacturing to foreign governments to allow patients to access lower cost or no cost treatments” — discusses recent progress, and concludes, “Our determination and pursuit of eradication lives in the 88 medicines and vaccines currently in development and the research that is currently under way at dozens of facilities across the world” (7/24).
In this opinion piece in the Atlantic, Mark Harrington, co-founder and executive director of the Treatment Action Group (TAG), says that stronger leadership from the U.S. is needed in order to end the AIDS epidemic. Harrington notes that “earlier this year, [President Obama] proposed a shocking cut of $550 million to [PEPFAR], the most successful U.S.-funded global health program in history,” and highlights his absence from “the first International AIDS Conference to be held on American soil since … 1990.” He provides “a to do list the president should consider if he wants to walk the walk,” which includes “[f]ully fund[ing] PEPFAR and support[ing] its reauthorization in 2013,” “[f]ully support[ing] the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” “[r]eject[ing] the congressional ban on federal funding for needle exchange,” “[r]evis[ing] and revitaliz[ing] the National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” increasing funding for NIH, and “fully funding the research, prevention, care, and treatment” needed to end the epidemic (7/24).
“AIDS activists gathering in Washington, D.C., and Kolkata, India, this week have denounced conditions attached to U.S. global AIDS funding, which they say have damaged the response to the epidemic by further marginalizing sex workers — among those hardest hit” by the epidemic, the Guardian reports. “International organizations that receive funds through [PEPFAR] must sign an ‘anti-prostitution pledge’ prohibiting them from doing anything that could be perceived as supporting sex work,” the news service notes. According to the Guardian, “U.S. organizations that receive PEPFAR money are no longer bound by the pledge, after successfully taking the government to court on the basis that the conditions attached to funding violate first amendment rights,” but “organizations outside the U.S. are still required to sign it” (Provost, 7/25).
International medicines financing mechanism UNITAID said on Monday it “will invest more than $140 million to evaluate point-of-care [PoC] HIV diagnostic and monitoring technology in seven African countries,” PlusNews reports, adding, “New technology could help put more people living with HIV on treatment faster and improve care, UNITAID partners said at the international AIDS conference in Washington, D.C.” (7/25). “The investment … is being committed to projects implemented by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), UNICEF and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to increase access to affordable point-of-care HIV diagnostics adapted for use in resource-poor settings,” aidsmap notes in a news story on its webpage (Smart, 7/24).
Speakers at Tuesday’s plenary session at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. highlighted the challenges that lie ahead in the response to HIV/AIDS and discussed potential solutions, ABC News reports (Duwell, 7/25). Bernhard Schwartlander, director for evidence, strategy and results at UNAIDS, “highlighted the many new possibilities for collaboration, activism, and financing for the AIDS response as economic growth is rapidly changing the global order,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story (7/24). “A lot of very clever and dedicated people are working very hard in making sure that services are delivered more efficiently, and … more people receive HIV services with the same amount of money,” he said at the session, PlusNews writes (7/25). According to UNAIDS, Schwartlander “outlined a number of innovative financing methods … such as the financial transaction tax; front-loading investments for health through bonds; or utilizing fines paid by pharmaceutical companies for anti-competitive practices for health assistance” (7/24).
WEBCAST: Kaiser Family Foundation Interviews Science's Jon Cohen Regarding Possibility Of AIDS 'Cure'
“Science Magazine reporter Jon Cohen speaks with the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jackie Judd about the willingness of scientists to discuss the possibility of a ‘cure’ for HIV/AIDS,” in a “Washington Notebook” interview on the foundation’s website, PBS NewsHour reports. In the interview, Cohen highlights a report to be released later this week about successes in the area of “functional cure” research, the news service notes (7/23).
In this post on the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Mead Over, economist and senior fellow at CGD, previews his participation in a panel that took place Monday evening at the XIX International AIDS Conference. Participants discussed whether AIDS spending is a sound investment in a resource-constrained environment (7/23). Additional information regarding the debate, which was held at World Bank headquarters and included several high-level speakers, is available on the World Bank website (7/23).
In a round-up of events from the XIX International AIDS Conference on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Trevor DeWitt, new media communications officer for the foundation, notes that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Monday released results “showing broad gains in the number of people receiving HIV treatment” (7/23). According to a Global Fund press release, “The results show that 3.6 million people living with HIV are now receiving antiretroviral treatment under programs backed by the Global Fund, an increase of 600,000 since the end of 2010.” In addition, “Overall, 8.7 million lives have been saved by programs supported by the Global Fund since the organization was formed in 2002. The results include data through June 2012,” the press release states (7/23).
In an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” international health consultant Taufiqur Rahman argues that funding for the HIV/AIDS response is sufficient. He says countries should pay for their own first-line antiretroviral treatment, integrate programs to include HIV prevention activities and apply pressure to bring down the cost of second-line drugs. “We are not using technology and best practices sufficiently to accelerate and sustain our gains to save more lives quickly and build country systems,” Rahman states, adding, “We do not need more funds. We need to be smarter about investing existing resources of $8 billion with careful planning, economic analysis, proper prioritization, and lots of coordinated as well as collaborative efforts.” He continues, “We now need to focus on a ‘Transition Strategy’ with countries and this requires serious rethinking and refocusing. Let us have one global strategy of transition, critical investment, and country capacity building. Focus on collaboration, integration, revised national strategy and national financing to win this battle” (7/23).