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Advocates In Sri Lanka Call For Change To Laws That Criminalize, Stigmatize Sex Work, Same-Sex Relationships

“Sri Lanka has long enjoyed a low 0.1 percent HIV prevalence but, as the number of fresh infections rises steadily, experts are calling for a change in the country’s archaic laws that make sex work illegal and criminalizes homosexual activity,” Inter Press Service reports. “In the first quarter of the current year there were 40 new cases of HIV compared to 32 and 27 in the first quarters of 2011 and 2010 respectively, according to the National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP),” the news service notes, adding “an estimated 41,000 commercial sex workers (CSWs) and 30,000 men who have sex with men (MSMs)” live in Sri Lanka. “‘In the past two years new infections are seen to be rising among those below 24 years, and 50 percent of them are MSMs,’ says NSACP director Nimal Edirisinghe,” IPS writes.

Advocates, Policy Experts Respond To FDA Approval Of Truvada For HIV Prevention

Though the FDA’s Monday approval of the antiretroviral drug Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection among people at risk of contracting the virus “was hailed by many as an important step in the fight against AIDS, concerns that people will incorrectly use the drug — potentially spurring drug resistance — led others to blast the agency for not laying down tougher rules,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” writes. “Instead of requiring that people prove they are HIV-negative before getting a prescription filled, the FDA slapped a boxed warning on the drug, saying it must only be used by people who have a confirmed HIV-negative test prior to getting a prescription, and then get tested at least every three months while they are using it,” the blog notes (Marcus, 7/16).

FDA Approves Truvada As HIV Prevention Strategy For High-Risk, Uninfected Individuals

The FDA on Monday announced the approval of the first drug for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among people at risk of contracting the virus, “which some are calling a landmark in the fight against AIDS,” ABC News reports (Geryk, 7/16). “The drug is Truvada, an antiretroviral medication made by Gilead Sciences, Inc., which was already approved by the FDA in 2004 to help control HIV infection,” CNN’s “The Chart” writes (7/16). “The new approval marks the first time the FDA has approved a drug” to reduce the risk of HIV infection, allowing Truvada “to be used in people who are considered at high risk of becoming infected with HIV, such as those who have an HIV-infected partner,” the Wall Street Journal notes (Dooren, 7/16). “The FDA said Truvada should be used as ‘part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy that includes other prevention methods, such as safe sex practices, risk reduction counseling, and regular HIV testing,'” Agence France-Presse adds (Sheridan, 7/16).

U.N. Secretary-General Appoints Special Envoy For HIV/AIDS In Africa

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday named Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania, a former U.N. deputy secretary-general, as the new Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, according to a U.N. statement, PANA/Afriquejet reports. As deputy secretary-general from 2007 to 2012, Migiro “was integrally involved in promoting the AIDS response globally and within Africa, with special emphasis on reducing the vulnerability of women and girls and ensuring the rights of people living with HIV,” the news service writes (7/14).

Drug Treatments, Scientific Advances Fuel Hope For HIV Control As AIDS 2012 Conference Draws Near

“A cure for AIDS remains a distant prospect but a host of drug treatments and other advances have fueled fresh hope that new [HIV] infections may someday be halted for good,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Strategies for ending the 30-year AIDS epidemic through advances in treatment, testing and prevention are high on the agenda of” the XIX International AIDS Conference, “when it returns to the United States next week after two decades,” according to the news agency (Sheridan, 7/14). “Thanks to drugs that can control the virus for decades, AIDS is no longer a death sentence,” Reuters writes in an article examining AIDS vaccine research. “New infections have fallen by 21 percent since the peak of the pandemic in 1997 and advances in prevention — through voluntary circumcision programs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and early treatment — promise to cut that rate even more,” the news service states (Steenhuysen, 7/15).

Trade Agreements Could Harm Access To Antiretroviral Drugs In Asia, Pacific, Experts And Activists Warn

“Pressure on developing countries to adopt clauses affecting intellectual property rights could limit access to generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in Asia and the Pacific, experts and activists warn,” PlusNews reports. According to Steven Kraus, director of the UNAIDS program in Asia and the Pacific region, only about one-third of the people in need of treatment in the region receive it, and the long-term sustainability of even that proportion will be challenging in the current economic climate, the news service notes. Kraus said World Trade Organization (WTO) member states should take advantage of flexibilities under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to manufacture and procure generic versions of medications “to ensure sustainability and the significant scale-up of HIV services to reach people most in need,” PlusNews continues.

Report Examines PEPFAR GBV Initiative In Tanzania

PEPFAR’s gender-based violence (GBV) initiative is bringing “new momentum” and attention to the intersection of HIV and GBV, Janet Fleischman, senior associate at the Global Health Policy Center of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), writes in a post on the center’s “Smart Global Health” blog. She describes the findings of a report (.pdf) for which she traveled to “Tanzania to examine how the GBV initiative is being implemented,” writing, “I found that, although still early in implementation and facing many challenges, the GBV initiative has the potential to yield important lessons about synergies in reducing GBV and HIV, with clear implications for U.S. global health investments” (7/11).

Studies Show Success, Highlight Challenges Of PrEP Strategy

The results of three clinical trials published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the antiretroviral drug Truvada, a combination of tenofovir and emtracitabine, can be “highly effective at preventing infection in HIV-free individuals — as long as those individuals take the drug every day as prescribed,” CNN’s “The Chart” reports (7/11). The strategy of using antiretrovirals to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, USA Today notes. “Two studies from Africa in heterosexual patients found that the drugs reduced the rate of HIV infection by 62 percent to 75 percent, a success rate that’s comparable to results from studies of gay men,” the newspaper writes, adding, “A third study in African women at high risk of infection, however, was ended early after researchers saw the drugs had no effect on HIV rates, largely because fewer than 40 percent of study participants took their pills as instructed” (Szabo, 7/11).

International AIDS Conference Must Focus On Combination Prevention Strategies To Fight AIDS Among Women

Highlighting statistics showing how HIV affects more women than men worldwide, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), writes in a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog post, “The XIX International AIDS Conference is coming to Washington, D.C., in two weeks and it must be different from its predecessors for one reason: HIV is now a woman’s plague.” She continues, “Our HIV policies and interventions have to respond accordingly or we will never create the AIDS-free generation that [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration have committed to build — where vertical transmission of HIV from a woman to her child is significantly reduced, where HIV-free girls and boys grow up with all the prevention options they need, and those who do acquire HIV have access to treatment.”

PEPFAR Recommends Integrating TB Screening Into Maternal, Child Health Programs

PEPFAR “is recommending improvements to efforts to detect [tuberculosis (TB)] in settings offering health services to pregnant women, women with HIV, newborns, and children,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The blog outlines the recommendations of the PMTCT/Pediatric HIV Technical Working Group, which said the decision to produce guidelines for integrating TB screening into maternal and child HIV programs was based on “[r]ecent studies [that] have shown that HIV-infected pregnant women are at increased risk of transmitting both TB and HIV to their infants” (Barton, 7/11).

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