“It is outrageous that, in 2012, when we have everything we need to beat AIDS, we are still fighting prejudice, stigma, and exclusion,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes on the Human Rights and HIV/AIDS “Now More Than Ever” blog, adding, “It is my daily reminder that the AIDS response is not just about an epidemic; the AIDS response is, has been, and must be, an instrument to fight for social justice.” He concludes, “[O]ur common aspiration is clear: a world where no one gets infected with a preventable virus, no one dies of a treatable disease, and no one faces discrimination for a health condition. We have tools to stop HIV transmission, deaths and discrimination. Human rights demand that we deliver these tools to every community and person affected. By doing so, we help to transform societies into the inclusive places they should be” (7/25).
Simon Reid-Henry, a lecturer in the School of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London and a senior fellow at the Peace Research Institute, and Hans Lofgren, an associate professor in politics at Deakin University in Melbourne, write in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” about “a triple-pronged attack on [India's] generic drug manufacturers by the west.” They discuss the European Union-India free trade agreement, currently being negotiated; an Indian supreme court case between Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis and the Indian government; and an “attempt by German pharmaceutical company Bayer to revoke the recent granting of a compulsory license for an Indian firm, Natco Pharma.” If the west is successful in any of these attempts, it “could delay the introduction of cheaper medicines in India and elsewhere at a time when the global financial crisis has already put the squeeze on life-saving medicines across the world,” they write (7/26).
“For the first time in many years, a new message is on the lips of the people on the frontlines [of the AIDS response] — together, we will end AIDS,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Living” blog. He notes, “Just a decade ago, this very thought would have been dismissed,” and asks, “What has changed? Where has this hope come from?” He writes, “It comes from the resilience and steadfastness of the global community, led by people living with HIV, grandmothers, sisters, brothers, mothers, doctors, nurses, scientists, activists to halt the AIDS epidemic from defining our lives.” He provides a recap of the global response, highlighting results, investments, scientific progress, and the protection of human rights, and continues, “Above all, it is people who have changed the face of the AIDS epidemic.” He concludes, “We can end AIDS. We will end AIDS” (7/25).
In this Politico opinion piece, Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, and Gerry Elsdon, a South African businesswoman and television host — both tuberculosis (TB) survivors — write that one priority at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., this week “should be spearheading a joint global effort against HIV and tuberculosis.” They write, “The rationale for a joint effort is clear,” adding, “Where HIV and TB are most common, the epidemics have merged, or are in the process of merging, into a single co-epidemic,” and “[t]hose whose immune systems are weakened by HIV are at extreme risk of dying from TB.” They conclude, “Thanks to a series of recent scientific breakthroughs, this week’s conference is the first in 30 years that has activists seriously contemplating the end of AIDS. Yet to see a real end to AIDS, we must put an end to TB. So let’s combine our efforts to reach these two goals” (7/24).
“At the XIX International AIDS Conference this week in Washington, D.C., Americans should be proud of what we have done to fight HIV/AIDS around the world, and how, together, we are turning the tide against an epidemic once thought to be invincible,” CARE USA President and CEO Helene Gayle writes in this post in Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “At CARE, which fights global poverty by empowering women and girls, we have seen women — particularly young women — remain disproportionately at risk of contracting the disease,” she writes, noting, “The World Health Organization reports that women constitute 60 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.” She concludes, “Continuing the momentum means staying ahead of the disease and reaching the most vulnerable populations such as the ultra-poor and, in too many places, women and girls” (7/24).
Noting “[a]pproximately 17 million women worldwide are currently living with HIV, with more than a million new infections in women of reproductive age each year,” Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of Population Action International (PAI), and Charles Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), write in this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog that “family planning and HIV are inextricably linked, especially for HIV-positive women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.” They continue, “And while addressing unmet family planning needs is essential for all women, family planning services are particularly critical for HIV-positive women who want to postpone pregnancy due to HIV-related illness, or want to access medicines and services that will allow them to give birth to an HIV-negative child” (Barton, 7/24).
OPINION: 'Win-Win Deals' Between Drug Companies, Purchasers Solution To Intellectual Property Debates
In this Foreign Policy opinion piece, Roger Bate, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in international health policy, discusses in detail the debates over intellectual property protection for drugs in relation to access to these drugs in developing countries and highlights a number of recent cases involving intellectual property legislation in the developing world. “Stricter TRIPS implementation is in the broad public interest because it increases incentives to innovate,” but “TRIPS is really a distraction from the job of increasing medicine access in the developing world,” he writes, concluding, “The solution lies in win-win deals between drug companies and institutional purchasers (domestic health agencies or foreign donors) that segment the market and tier prices sensibly. … [T]he real action is in making hybrid deals that recognize the political realities, and move on” (7/23).
As participants convene this week in Washington, D.C., for the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), “it is impossible to ignore an inconvenient truth: that drug war politics and policies in the United States and many other countries are severely jeopardizing the overall ‘fight against AIDS,'” Mathilde Krim, founding chair of amfAR and a member of the board of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, write in the Huffington Post’s “Politics Blog.” They continue, “Too many countries in the world have let their repressive and punitive drug policies get in the way of the public’s health. … The spread of HIV will not be stopped as long as drug use remains criminalized and as long as people who inject drugs are given up for lost” (7/24).
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).
Though “a massive 24-year global effort to eradicate [polio] forever is now within striking distance of its goal, … there is still a very real danger that the entire campaign could come undone,” Jay Winsten, associate dean at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Emily Serazin, a principal in the Washington, D.C. office of the Boston Consulting Group, write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. The campaign to eradicate the disease faces geopolitical challenges, “[b]ut the biggest danger faced by the campaign is a dramatic funding shortfall of $945 million — almost half the amount originally budgeted for 2012-13,” they write. “The challenges faced by the polio campaign are emblematic of problems that affect worldwide efforts to conquer vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough,” Winsten and Serazin state and note that a Global Vaccine Action Plan was recently compiled by a huge collaborative effort and endorsed by the World Health Assembly. “With sufficient funding and political will, the massive health and economic benefits of vaccines are indeed attainable,” they conclude (7/24).