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Assistant Sec. Of Health Koh Addresses AIDS 2012 Plenary; HHS Sec. Sebelius Speaks At Washington Post Event

Speaking at the plenary session of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., on Monday, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh discussed the development and implementation of the United States’ first-ever comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, ABC News reports. “In the U.S., the burden of HIV is not shared equally, by population or region,” Koh said, according to the news service, which adds, “Addressing HIV-related health disparities is one of three overarching goals of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy, along with reducing new infections and increasing access to HIV care.” About 50,000 new HIV infections occur in the U.S. annually, ABC notes (Duwell, 7/25). According to his speech transcript (.pdf), Koh said, “National strategies are critical to effective country leadership on HIV. National strategies outline a framework for responding to HIV/AIDS in ways that reflect each country’s unique epidemiology, disease burden, and trends. And they demonstrate the importance of country ownership and the need to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of HIV/AIDS programs” (7/24).

AIDS Activists March In Washington, India To Protest Marginalization Of Sex Workers, Drug Users

“AIDS activists gathering in Washington, D.C., and Kolkata, India, this week have denounced conditions attached to U.S. global AIDS funding, which they say have damaged the response to the epidemic by further marginalizing sex workers — among those hardest hit” by the epidemic, the Guardian reports. “International organizations that receive funds through [PEPFAR] must sign an ‘anti-prostitution pledge’ prohibiting them from doing anything that could be perceived as supporting sex work,” the news service notes. According to the Guardian, “U.S. organizations that receive PEPFAR money are no longer bound by the pledge, after successfully taking the government to court on the basis that the conditions attached to funding violate first amendment rights,” but “organizations outside the U.S. are still required to sign it” (Provost, 7/25).

OPINION: Stronger Leadership Needed From U.S. To End Global AIDS Epidemic

In this opinion piece in the Atlantic, Mark Harrington, co-founder and executive director of the Treatment Action Group (TAG), says that stronger leadership from the U.S. is needed in order to end the AIDS epidemic. Harrington notes that “earlier this year, [President Obama] proposed a shocking cut of $550 million to [PEPFAR], the most successful U.S.-funded global health program in history,” and highlights his absence from “the first International AIDS Conference to be held on American soil since … 1990.” He provides “a to do list the president should consider if he wants to walk the walk,” which includes “[f]ully fund[ing] PEPFAR and support[ing] its reauthorization in 2013,” “[f]ully support[ing] the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” “[r]eject[ing] the congressional ban on federal funding for needle exchange,” “[r]evis[ing] and revitaliz[ing] the National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” increasing funding for NIH, and “fully funding the research, prevention, care, and treatment” needed to end the epidemic (7/24).

RECENT RELEASE: Kaiser Family Foundation Releases Report Comparing AIDS Responses Of U.S., Other High-Income Countries

The Kaiser Family Foundation on Tuesday released a report titled, “Responding to AIDS at Home & Abroad: How the U.S. and Other High Income Countries Compare,” (.pdf) which “examines the United States’ response to HIV over the last 30 years compared to … seven other similarly situated nations — Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom,” according to the report’s webpage. “Key areas examined include governance of the national responses, the roles of affected communities and non-governmental actors, policies relating to HIV testing, prevention, care and treatment, and stigma and discrimination,” the webpage states (7/24).

Financial Times Examines Integration Of Family Planning, HIV Services In Ethiopia

The Financial Times examines efforts by “Ethiopian policymakers, faced with a rapidly expanding population and rising numbers of HIV/AIDS infections,” to integrate family planning into HIV counseling and testing programs in the country. “When counseling women on reproductive health or child immunization, family planning clinics can also discuss HIV testing and prevention, particularly condom use, as well as introducing pregnant women to mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention services,” the newspaper notes.

Modest Sums Of U.S. Foreign Aid Have Saved Lives On An 'Unprecedented Scale'

In this New York Times opinion piece, columnist Nicholas Kristof examines the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid, writing, “In this election year in the United States, there’ll be bitter debates about what should be cut from budgets, and one thing Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is that foreign aid is bloated.” He states, “In fact, all foreign aid accounts for about one percent of federal spending — and that includes military assistance and a huge, politically driven check made out to Israel, a wealthy country that is the largest recipient of American aid.” He continues, “On my annual win-a-trip journey with a university student — this year it’s Jordan Schermerhorn of Rice University — we’ve been seeing how assistance changed the course of the AIDS epidemic in Lesotho and Malawi.”

Domestic PEPFAR Program Would Increase Coordination, Improve AIDS Response In U.S.

“Urban America continues to suffer high rates of HIV despite successes of antiretroviral treatment that can suppress the virus, decrease transmission, prevent progression to AIDS, and lower death rates,” Gregory Pappas, senior deputy director of the Washington, D.C., Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA), writes in a Washington Blade opinion piece. “The global U.S. response known as the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) succeeded by enhancing funding, coordinating government efforts and working across jurisdictions,” he states, adding, “A domestic PEPFAR would emphasize enhanced spending, promote regional data, and plan and coordinate services regionally.”

Washington Blade Compares HIV/AIDS Efforts Of Presidents Obama, Bush

The Washington Blade compares U.S. HIV/AIDS efforts under the administrations of former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. According to the news service, “Some praise the Obama administration for laying out a comprehensive plan and bumping up domestic funding to confront the epidemic, while others yearn for the Bush days because of the global initiatives the Republican president started.” The article goes on to highlight major accomplishments and criticisms of each administration (Johnson, 7/19).

RECENT RELEASE: CSIS Blog Posts Highlight Panel Discussions On PEPFAR, Examine Challenges To Administering Treatment-As-Prevention

“In advance of the XIX International AIDS Conference — AIDS 2012 — CSIS celebrated the release of the special supplement of the Journal of AIDS focused on PEPFAR” with an event organized in cooperation with the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC),” the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog reports. According to the blog, the event “featured contributing authors and guest editors who are leading figures in PEPFAR and the international HIV/AIDS community” participating “in wide-ranging discussions of the successes and challenges of PEPFAR, from its inception to its future” (Fisher/Kramer, 7/23). In a related post in the blog, Phillip Nieburg, a senior associate at the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, examines the challenges of adopting treatment-as-prevention as a strategy to achieve an “AIDS-free generation” (7/23).

Bill Gates Stresses Importance Of Investment In Both HIV Treatment And Research For Vaccines, Microbicides

In a symposium session on Monday at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., politicians and public health experts joined Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates for a discussion about improving effectiveness and efficiency in the HIV/AIDS response, the Washington Post reports (Brown/Botelho, 7/23). “Gates … reiterated the importance for nations and donors to support research, but also expressed support for ongoing treatment initiatives in the meantime,” according to Agence France-Presse. “No one should think that we have got the tools yet. We will get the tools but only if we stay the course in terms of the scientific investments,” Gates said, AFP notes (Sheridan, 7/23). The Washington Post adds that “[t]he main one lacking is a vaccine, but also important and missing are woman-controlled means to prevent infection, such as a vaginal microbicide” (7/23).