Officials with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said Greece must act to combat a rising number of HIV cases within high-risk populations, including drug users, or face increased health care costs in the future, Reuters reports. ECDC Director Marc Sprenger said, “Immediate concerted action is needed in order to curb and eventually stop the current outbreak,” according to the news agency. “Sprenger will meet Greek officials this week to say that free needles, syringes and opioid substitution projects must be stepped up, and testing and treatment for the human immunodeficiency virus made available to all,” Reuters writes, noting the ECDC published a report on HIV in Greece (Kelland, 11/29). The ECDC “reported 314 cases of the AIDS-causing virus among injecting drug users in the first eight months of this year,” compared “with 208 for all of 2011 and no more than 15 cases a year from 2001 to 2010,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. While the extent to which Greece’s economic crisis has contributed to the outbreak is unclear, austerity measures and high unemployment may fuel new infections in Athens and beyond the capital unless programs to provide methadone, clean needles and condoms are expanded, the … ECDC said,” the news agency writes (Bennett, 11/30).
The White House on Thursday released a statement by President Barack Obama commemorating World AIDS Day, observed annually on December 1. Noting progress made against the disease in the past year, Obama said in the statement, “As we continue this important work with our partners around the world and here at home, let us remember the lives we have lost to AIDS, celebrate the progress we have made, and, together, recommit to ourselves to achieving our shared vision of an AIDS-free generation” (11/29). Additionally, President Obama on Thursday signed a Presidential Proclamation recommitting the U.S. “to preventing the spread of this disease, fighting the stigma associated with infection, and ending this pandemic once and for all” (11/29).
U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Reflects On PEPFAR Blueprint For Achieving Global ‘AIDS-Free Generation’
Writing in the AIDS.gov blog, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby reflects on the new PEPFAR blueprint (.pdf) for achieving a global “AIDS-free generation,” released by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday. “It sends an unequivocal message that the U.S. commitment to the global AIDS response will remain strong, comprehensive and driven by science,” he writes, adding, “It provides a roadmap for what the U.S. will do to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Equally important, it calls upon the world to share in the responsibility to reach this goal.” Goosby details the key principles and goals outlined in the document and concludes, “On this World AIDS Day, the success we have achieved to date provides powerful motivation to push on to an AIDS-free generation. Together, let’s seize this moment” (11/29).
“The global economic crisis has caused many to reassess, refocus and redirect financial priorities,” and “[a]s a result, vital international aid to combat global health issues like HIV/AIDS is threatened,” Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron Corporation, and Frank Beadle de Palomo, CEO of mothers2mothers International, write in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “But there is good news: Mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be eliminated,” they continue, adding, “Through education, voluntary testing and counseling, antiretroviral therapies, safe delivery practices and breastfeeding protocols, we can ensure babies are born HIV-free.”
The “Blueprint for an AIDS-free Generation,” (.pdf) released on Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “shows that upfront investments to support the rapid scale-up of lifesaving AIDS treatment will yield significant savings — of both lives and dollars — in the near future,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “For the Blueprint to be a success, the funding to implement it must be secured,” Tutu writes, adding, “Advocates will need to lobby President Obama to ensure that specific targets are attached to the Blueprint, that progress is tracked and that adequate resources are allocated quickly to fund accelerated, up-front investments.” He continues, “That’s no small order in the current global economic environment and in light of the political gridlock in Washington over plans to correct the U.S. federal deficit.”
The Financial Times published the following opinion pieces as part of its special report, “Combating AIDS 2012,” released ahead of World AIDS Day, observed annually on December 1.
The Financial Times on Friday published a special report titled, “FT Health: Combating AIDS 2012” (.pdf). The report, released ahead of World AIDS Day, observed annually on December 1, includes several pieces, including an article discussing human behavior as an obstacle to eradicating HIV, an article examining Global Fund reform, and an article examining how the number of AIDS-related deaths could be reduced by more effectively treating tuberculosis patients (11/30).
“While India has drastically reduced the spread of HIV over the past decade, new strains of the virus that cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) are troubling medical scientists in this country,” Inter Press Service reports (Devraj, 11/29). According to SciDev.Net, “[S]cientists have found new strains of the HIV-1 subtype C — which is responsible for half of the world’s HIV infections — are evolving rapidly in this country.” “The scientists, led by Udaykumar Ranga, professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore, have identified five different strains of HIV-1C,” the news service writes, adding, “The proportion of some of these new strains of the HIV-1C went up from two percent in 2000-2003 to 30 percent a decade later, said their study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry this month” (Bhatta, 11/30).
“[O]ne thing I’ve learned from working on HIV/AIDS my entire political career — we are far better united than divided,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Politico opinion piece, noting examples of bipartisan legislation that “help to slow the rate of infections and reduce the number of deaths from AIDS.” She continues, “We can put into place the policies that can help end AIDS. Even in a time of fiscal uncertainty, we have the resources. We just have to be smart about it, and that means responding to the reality of HIV and not the luxury of our political comfort.” Lee writes, “Worldwide, we have to maximize our efficiency and build programs that make sense,” including integrating family planning, maternal health, and HIV services and “respond[ing] to the needs expressed by key populations, including men who have sex with men, sex workers, and people who inject drugs.” She says, “As long as we are supporting laws that limit comprehensive sex education, deny federal funding for syringe exchange services, or criminalize people living with HIV for consensual sex, biting and spitting, we are allowing HIV to thrive.”
“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday unveiled a game plan for achieving a global ‘AIDS-free generation,’ committing the United States to rapidly scaling up medical interventions that are beating back what once was seen as an unconquerable disease,” Reuters reports (Quinn, 11/29). “Clinton announced the plan, officially titled the ‘President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation,’ [.pdf] at the State Department, two days ahead of World AIDS Day,” CNN notes (Ariosto, 11/29). The 54-page blueprint — “immediately welcomed by AIDS researchers and advocates” — aims “to treat as many people as possible, both to keep them well and to help keep them from infecting others” and will target high-risk populations, such as drug users, gay men, and sex workers, NBC News’ “Vitals” blog writes. The blog notes Clinton released new PEPFAR data (.pdf) showing the program has provided antiretroviral treatment to more than five million people worldwide (Fox, 11/29). “The report from [PEPFAR] states that the world is at a ‘tipping point’ on AIDS, and promises to usher in a generation free of the disease,” The Hill’s “Healthwatch” blog states (Viebeck, 11/29). Once the number of people on treatment surpasses the number of new infections every year, “[w]e will then get ahead of the pandemic and an AIDS-free generation will be in our sight,” Clinton said, Politico Pro reports (Smith, 11/29). The Washington Post adds, “But she warned: ‘Now we have to deliver. … The history of global health is littered with grand plans that never panned out'” (Brown, 11/29).