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).
Jonathan Klein, board chair of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and co-founder and CEO of Getty Images, writes in a guest post on Forbes, “The U.S. government has long been the world’s most stalwart Global Fund supporter, and U.S. leadership continues to be the most effective tool in leveraging additional resources for the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, particularly at a time when budgets are universally tight.” He notes that “[f]or every $1 invested by U.S. taxpayers, the Global Fund leverages at least $2 more from international donors. And that money translates directly into lifesaving prevention and treatment.” Klein says, “Continued U.S. leadership is essential to maintain these gains and reach our health goals. … With sustained strong support, policymakers in Washington can continue to be responsible … for the uptick in people living healthy, productive lives.” Noting that U.S. foreign aid accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget, he concludes, “But it reaps enormous rewards in generating global good will, boosting national security, saving lives and creating a safer, more stable world for all of us” (7/23).
RECENT RELEASE: Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post Poll Shows Positive News About Public Opinion And HIV
As the XIX International AIDS Conference convenes in Washington, D.C., Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) President and CEO Drew Altman highlights positive news about public opinion and HIV from KFF’s new survey of the American people conducted with the Washington Post in his latest “Pulling It Together” column. He says that “the American people get most of the essentials about the HIV epidemic right (but not necessarily all of the details)” and highlights some of the survey’s findings. Altman also explores factors possibly contributing to the public’s understanding of the epidemic, including media coverage, personal contact with people living with HIV, and advocacy and education efforts. Though “there is a long way to go in the effort to end the epidemic here and abroad … there is a foundation of basic public knowledge and support which will serve the HIV effort well in years ahead,” he concludes (7/23).
Michael Merson, director of the Duke Global Health Institute, writes in The Hill’s “Congress Blog” that much of the progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS “has been made — and the lives of millions of people saved — because of PEPFAR, … [t]he largest ever global investment in health by the United States government.” With PEPFAR’s “aggressive new goals” — to provide antiretroviral drugs to six million people in low- and middle-income countries, “fund 4.7 million male circumcisions and provide antiretroviral therapy to 1.5 million HIV-infected pregnant women by 2013” — “[w]e need to ask: Are we setting ambitious goals that we’re not prepared to fund or meet? Are we setting up one of our country’s greatest successes for failure?” Merson asks. He notes that “PEPFAR funding has flatlined despite these new targets and is not nearly enough to maintain progress and continue reducing new HIV/AIDS cases and deaths” and that “uncertainty” surrounds the “commitment by Congress” and the outcome of the presidential election. Saying that “PEPFAR itself also needs to continue to adjust its priorities,” Merson states that “treatment, prevention, care, health system capacity and scientific research to develop an HIV vaccine require financial commitment, strong political will and investment in resources from all stakeholders. Let us not fall behind now and bring back the suffering of the past” (7/20).
Noting the successes of PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, former President George W. Bush writes in a Washington Post opinion piece that “[a]n important byproduct of this massive effort on HIV/AIDS has been the improvement of African health systems,” which “has raised an exciting prospect: to extend the gains on AIDS to other diseases.” Bush also discusses his work with the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, a public-private partnership initiative spearheaded by the Bush Institute to save women from breast and cervical cancer. Over the past decade a “global effort” has saved millions of lives, he says, adding, “It would be a sad and terrible thing if the world chose this moment to lose its focus and will.” Bush concludes, “Other countries and local governments in Africa can do more in providing resources and increasing funding … [b]ut to continue the momentum in the fight against AIDS, America must continue to lead” (7/22).
Noting the International AIDS Conference is being held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on an event with “government leaders, philanthropists, faith leaders, entrepreneurs and entertainers at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre [Saturday] night to recognize what the world has achieved in turning the tide on AIDS,” in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. Gates says the event “offered a great stage to share success stories and talk about the importance of sustained HIV funding,” and concludes, “Americans can be justifiably proud of the tremendous moral leadership that the U.S. has taken in producing breakthrough innovations in the fight against HIV” (7/22).
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Opportunity” blog, Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), examines “some of the available facts on global health and jobs in swing states and [presents] three reasons why the presidential campaigns should pay more attention to global health than they have so far.” Levine writes, “According to the Duke Global Health Institute, in 2007, global health contributed an estimated 7,000 jobs, more than $500,000,000 in wages and salaries and had an economic impact of $1.7-2.0 billion on the North Carolina economy”; “[n]early one-half of all the funding for global health from [USAID] went to Virginia-based institutions — over $560 million in FY 2011 and 2012 alone,” which “no doubt provide jobs to hundreds of Virginians”; and “U.S. contributions to global health and policies towards regulation, research and investments that build systems in emerging market countries will have a major impact on thousands of jobs” in Pennsylvania, where “Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and others have major manufacturing, commercial and research presences” (7/20).
In this post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” Mark Dybul, former U.S. global AIDS coordinator, examines “whether the U.S. should continue its efforts to increase support to local hospitals, governments and faith- and community-based groups in developing countries to promote self-sufficiency so that, over time, countries take over responsibility for the health and well-being of their citizens.” Dybul notes the Bush Administration “began a significant push in this direction” with PEPFAR and the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Obama Administration “has picked up, evolved and expanded this strategy.” He writes, “The reason for the strong bipartisan agreement is rather simple: it’s the right thing to do for the American taxpayer to save and lift up more lives with the highest return on investment — and that, in turn, is good for our national economy and security” (7/20).
“[D]isappointingly, one group that will be absent [from the XIX International AIDS Conference next week] due to U.S. travel restrictions is sex workers,” a Lancet editorial states. “Sex workers have been extremely neglected as a population in the global response to HIV/AIDS, despite their substantially heightened risk of HIV infection and propensity to transmit new infections into general populations,” the editorial continues, adding, “Yet global funding allocations have been inadequate or restricted policies have been applied, such as the U.S. anti-prostitution pledge, which has greatly limited research and the response to HIV in sex workers. Furthermore, the conflation of sex work with human trafficking, and the disregard of sex work as work, has meant that sex workers’ rights have not been properly recognized.”
“President Barack Obama has a standing invitation to speak at the [XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., next week], and he likely would be welcomed with loud cheers given his progressive HIV/AIDS policies,” journalist Jon Cohen writes in a Slate opinion piece. “But Obama apparently can’t carve out the time, which both runs the risk of angering a volatile community and squandering a historic opportunity,” he continues. Though some “U.S. government officials who have made presentations at the meeting … have weathered humiliating greetings, … Obama would face none of this hostility,” Cohen writes, noting that the U.S. “today spends more money on HIV/AIDS research than all countries combined and also is the single most generous donor to the global effort to combat the disease.”