A Lancet editorial discusses the agenda of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington last month and asks how the success of the conference will be judged at the XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), to be held in Melbourne, Australia. “The return of the conference to the U.S. after 22 years, [was not only] a focus for celebration, but also provided a platform for vocal objection to the ban on injecting drug users and sex workers from entering the U.S.,” the editorial states, adding that “the absence of these groups from the meeting is rightly seen by many as a hindrance to developing approaches to combat the epidemic in regions where the disease is concentrated in these populations.”
On World Humanitarian Day, recognized August 19, “United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has highlighted the power of individual actions to spark global changes, and praised the work of humanitarian workers who provide assistance to vulnerable people around the world,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/17). In a press release, “UNICEF called on all parties in conflicts around the world to allow humanitarian workers safe, unimpeded access to reach children and women in need” (8/19). “World Humanitarian Day gives us the opportunity to show our appreciation to the thousands of workers … who are working every day in difficult circumstances,” the WHO writes in an article on its webpage, noting, “Health is one of several critical dimensions of humanitarian response, and the sustainable recovery of people under hardship” (August 2012).
“During the recent [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)] in Washington, D.C., exciting breakthroughs in HIV prevention, treatment, and care — even a possible cure — took center stage,” but, “despite recent advances, many men and women remain at risk of HIV as a result of structural issues that fuel and have an impact on the epidemic,” Molly Fitzgerald, technical advisor for AIDSTAR-One, writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact Blog.” “Addressing gender inequality, poverty, stigma, and other social, economic, cultural, and legal factors is necessary to create an ‘enabling environment’ for these promising biomedical and behavioral interventions,” she continues, noting, “There is increasing agreement worldwide that structural issues are too often overlooked where HIV prevalence remains high” (8/16).
“Kenya’s government, under the leadership of President Mwai Kibaki, has allocated additional funding to its national AIDS response,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story on its webpage, noting, “The announcement came last Friday during a high level advocacy meeting in Nairobi.” “President Kibaki stressed in the meeting that despite a scarcity of resources in Kenya, the Government will not waver in its commitment to the national AIDS response,” UNAIDS writes, adding, “More than 85 percent of resources for Kenya’s response to HIV currently come from development partners” (8/15).
In an article on the U.S. Department of Defense webpage, the American Forces Press Service reports on how a U.S. military medical team is helping the Botswana Defense Force “to promote Botswana’s national program of education, HIV screening and male circumcision surgeries to stem what’s become a national epidemic,” according to Army Col. (Dr.) Michael Kelly, an Army Reserve surgeon deployed in Botswana from the Army Reserve Medical Command in Washington. “The Botswana Ministry of Health’s goal, Kelly said, is to bring the number of new HIV diagnoses to zero by 2016, … an ambitious plan, in light of an HIV rate that has skyrocketed since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in Botswana in 1985,” the news service writes (Miles, 8/14).
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Healthy Living” blog, John-Manuel Andriote, a journalist and author living with HIV, writes, “For all of us living with HIV infection — Oct. 27 will mark seven years since my own diagnosis — the question we face daily, hopefully more consciously and deliberately than most, is how shall we live, knowing as we do that we will most assuredly die one day?” Reflecting on the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place in Washington last month, he continues, “An AIDS-free generation is certainly a worthy goal,” but “even if tens of billions of additional dollars are allocated to address HIV/AIDS, even if the Republicans don’t succeed in inflicting their Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ upon the nation and the world, the question will continue to be what it has been for 31 years … Will we have the political will to end AIDS?”
India on Monday “opened a $12 million, government-backed laboratory whose mission is to create a new vaccine against HIV,” Science Insider reports. “The HIV Vaccine Translational Research Laboratory, which aims to recruit about 30 scientists, is embedded within the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, a $200 million facility under development on the outskirts of New Delhi” and “will work in collaboration with the New York based-International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI),” the news service writes, noting “operating costs will be shared equally” (Bagla, 8/14). “Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam launched the [laboratory] in New Delhi on Monday at a symposium on accelerating India’s search for an HIV vaccine,” the Wall Street Journal’s livemint.com writes. “Promising ‘strong political will’ at the highest level, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said, ‘A preventive vaccine for HIV/AIDS is the best hope to end this epidemic,'” and “added that the step was an initiative to reinforce a national response in the global fight against disease,” the news service notes (Krishnan, 8/13).
In this post in BMJ’s “Yankee Doodling,” Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist at RTI International and an associate editor for the journal, reflects on the possibility of achieving an AIDS-free generation “if somehow we succeeded in getting all HIV positive people in the world identified and under long term treatment.” He writes that while there has been “astonishing progress against AIDS,” “two concerns immediately arise: the magnitude of the work remaining to find and continuously treat all those infected, and the confusion between that treatment (even if it is somehow universally successful) and actual eradication of the disease.” He concludes, “It is a rosy scenario, but even if it came true it still would not spell the end of the HIV story,” because “[w]e have no vaccine, and the virus keeps mutating” (8/14).
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”
“PrePex, a bloodless circumcision device for adults, will be tested in at least nine African countries in the next year, according to the backers of the tests,” the New York Times reports. PEPFAR “will pay for PrePex circumcisions for about 2,500 men in Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, said Dr. Jason B. Reed, a technical adviser to the plan,” the newspaper writes. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will pay for similar studies in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” it adds. According to the New York Times, the device “was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in January, and World Health Organization approval is expected soon.” The newspaper notes, “No surgeon is needed for the procedure; a two-nurse team slides a grooved ring inside the foreskin and guides a rubber band to compress the foreskin in the groove,” and adds, “After a week, the dead foreskin falls off like the stump of a baby’s umbilical cord or can be painlessly clipped off, said Tzameret Fuerst, chief executive of PrePex” (McNeil, 8/13).