“Health care, taxes, energy, favorite flavor of ice cream — it seems our elected leaders must disagree at every turn. But one issue that has so far repulsed the partisan pressures of the times was highlighted [at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)] in our nation’s capital last week: the fight against HIV/AIDS,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in an opinion piece in “The Week.” He says, “The conference was a celebration of the remarkable success made because of this leadership, and a call for continued support” in the response against HIV/AIDS. Noting he moderated a panel discussion with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on congressional bipartisanship at the conference, Frist continues, “I witnessed what I felt to be an accurate portrayal of how we got to the point where we could celebrate so many successes. Fundamental to the progress has been bipartisanship.”
Programs, Funding & Financing
The New York Times reports on efforts by the GAVI Alliance to deliver vaccines for children in war-torn and secretive countries. According to the newspaper, the non-profit group “sold to North Korea a vaccine against five diseases, and has announced plans to roll out other vaccines soon in Yemen, the Republic of Congo and Pakistan.” The newspaper notes that the alliance “does not do the vaccinating, but negotiates low prices from manufacturers and resells the vaccines at prices on a sliding scale, depending on a country’s gross national income per capita.” According to the New York Times, “[F]irst the group studies whether the country can use the vaccine — whether officials can keep it refrigerated even in rural villages, for example, and whether there are enough trained vaccinators” (McNeil, 7/30).
Highlighting a recently released UNAIDS and Kaiser Family Foundation report (.pdf) on the financing of the global response to HIV/AIDS in low- and middle-income countries in 2011, Devex assesses the HIV/AIDS initiatives and funding levels of the five leading donor governments for that year. According to the report, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and Germany “collectively contributed $6.5 billion, or nearly 86 percent, of all international HIV/AIDS assistance” in 2011, Devex notes before detailing these contributions by country (Piccio, 7/30).
In her “Global Health Blog,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley notes that she spoke with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah during last week’s XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012). She writes that though he “has a very clear vision of where USAID is going and what it hopes to achieve … [h]e appears to be a little concerned, however, that Europe may not keep pace — particularly on the finance but perhaps also on the approach.” She continues to say “Shah’s main anxiety is clearly … about the diminishing funding from European allies for the efforts to turn the tide of AIDS … but also about the financial commitment to global health generally.”
Lawrence Altman, former senior medical correspondent for the New York Times, writes in an opinion analysis in the newspaper that while there was much discussion about “ending the AIDS epidemic” and an “AIDS-free generation” at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) last week in Washington, D.C., “[o]ne obstacle is a failure to clearly define the epidemic or what it means to have an AIDS-free generation.” He continues, “Definitions of terms like these may help determine how many billions of dollars the world devotes to the battle against AIDS and how many millions of lives will be extended. A failure to meet ill-defined goals could lead to public misunderstandings that limit investments and the number of people who have access to the lifesaving antiretroviral drugs in the future.”
Inter Press Service reports on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, a region with “the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa.” The news service highlights a report titled “Together We Will End AIDS,” released by UNAIDS ahead of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C. last week, which “noted that AIDS-related deaths in the Caribbean have declined by almost 50 percent in 10 years.” The news service highlights progress made in various countries in the region and quotes a number of experts and officials who spoke at or before the conference.
“The number of people needing food aid in Zimbabwe will rise by 60 percent this year to 1.6 million, the World Food Programme [WFP] said on Friday, citing an annual assessment carried out by the United Nations and the Zimbabwean government,” Reuters reports (7/27). “The deteriorating food situation, said the WFP, was caused by erratic rainfall and dry spells, limited access to agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer, a reduction in the planted hectarage, poor farming practices and inadequate crop diversification,” VOA News writes (Dube/Zulu, 7/27). “The WFP said its $119 million (97 million euro) aid program, meant to run through to March next year, is facing a $87 million shortfall,” according to Agence France-Presse (7/27). The agency said it plans to import cereals from surrounding countries and provide cash transfers to affected populations to allow them to purchase food, Reuters notes (7/27).
Noting “President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future initiative seeks to end hunger through increasing investment in agricultural development, particularly for the vast legion of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa,” Roger Thurow, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, writes in a post in the ONE blog, “Central to this movement is that Feed the Future and U.S. leadership to end hunger through agricultural development become a cornerstone of American policy no matter who is in the White House or which party controls Congress.” He writes that PEPFAR “was embraced and authorized by Congress in an unusual display of bipartisan support,” and says, “Feed the Future is worthy of similar bipartisan support and unity of purpose. It can stand alongside PEPFAR as an example of what America does in the face of crisis and great need” (7/27).
Some members of Congress “are advocating deep cuts to funding for domestic programs such as [the Ryan White CARE Act] and international programs such as the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] and PEPFAR,” but “[w]hat these critics fail to realize is that though we have won a multitude of battles, we are still losing the war in many communities,” Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) writes in a U.S. News & World Report opinion piece. “We must continue to find innovative, targeted solutions in the fight against this dreaded disease,” he continues, adding, “There are many of us in Congress who recognize this important fact, chief among those are my dear friend Rep. Barbara Lee [D-Calif.], whose upcoming ‘Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012’ targets at-risk populations both domestically and internationally.” Honda concludes, “From legislative action on the federal level to grassroots efforts in state communities, we need to make targeting these communities a top priority in order to move forward. This requires advocacy, this requires commitment, and most importantly, it requires more investment” (7/27).
Noting “the total clinic-level cost of providing a year’s worth of antiretroviral drugs … ha[s] dropped” in some countries, Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, discusses “disagreement over the effectiveness of the global AIDS response” in this Bloomberg Businessweek opinion piece. Kenny highlights a debate that took place last week on the sidelines of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that “focused on the question: should we use resources for antiretrovirals at a cost (including overhead) of perhaps $350 per patient per life year saved if we could use those resources to provide a course of drugs to cure victims of tuberculosis at a cost of $5 to $50 per life year, or of extending childhood immunizations at the cost of $2 to $20 per life year?” He writes, “Simply, millions of people are dying unnecessarily, for lack of $350 a year or less. It may be those who don’t get AIDS treatment, or those that don’t get other treatments because the available money is being used to buy antiretrovirals.” He continues, “If anything could open treasury accounts in the rich world to provide a larger flow of resources to global health, perhaps it is to get policymakers in those countries to think through these gut wrenching decisions that limited funding (and lack of funding flexibility) forces doctors and ministers and activists alike to make every day” (7/27).