Noting new guidelines released at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., this week “call for everybody with HIV to be started on antiretroviral drugs [ARVs] as soon as they test positive for the virus,” NPR’s “Shots” blog examines “whether the goal is achievable, and who would pay for this enormous expansion in treatment.” “Right now about eight million people across the world are getting treated for HIV at a cost of around $17 billion a year,” the blog writes, adding, “Universal treatment would cost another $22 billion, by some estimates.” The blog notes Bernhard Schwartlander, director for evidence, strategy and results at UNAIDS, in a plenary speech at the conference on Tuesday “offered up several possible ways to raise the money,” including a tax on shipping and aviation fuel (Knox, 7/26).
Programs, Funding & Financing
The U.S. Census Bureau on Monday launched an interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths, which contains 149,000 statistics, making it the “most complete of its kind in the world,” according to a Census Bureau press release. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby said, “This release of the HIV/AIDS database will expand global access to data that are critical to understanding the epidemic. This information is invaluable for the evidence-based response PEPFAR is championing,” according to the press release (7/23). Also on Monday, the Humanitarian Information Unit in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research released two maps. The first (.pdf) depicts where PEPFAR supported HIV/AIDS programs in fiscal year 2011, and the second (.pdf) shows where PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria support HIV/AIDS programs throughout the world, according to an email announcement (7/23).
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).
In 2010, after allegations of fraud among some fund recipients in several countries, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria convened “an independent, high-level panel to review its financial controls and how grant money is spent,” and the Fund “is now implementing the panel’s recommendations,” PlusNews reports. At the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), the news service interviewed Mark Eldon-Edington, the Global Fund’s director of country programs, “to find out what the changes in the grant-making process will mean for beneficiaries.” Eldon-Edington discusses the reasons for focusing on grant-making reform, what changes have already been made, and how the changes will affect countries in future grant rounds, among other issues (7/24).
WEBCAST: Kaiser Family Foundation Interviews Science's Jon Cohen Regarding New Approach To AIDS Financing
“Science magazine reporter Jon Cohen speaks with the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jackie Judd about a call Tuesday for a new approach to financing the global battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic” in a “Washington Notebook” interview on the foundation’s website, PBS NewsHour reports. “[T]here are many, many countries that are going to be moving out of low-income status into middle-income status and that’s going to put pressure on them from the donors to do more and more,” Cohen says, adding “many poor countries signed on to a declaration that they would pay 15 percent of their health care needs and many have not done it,” according to the interview transcript (7/23).
Noting that President Barack Obama’s “only presence [at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)] is a 50-second cameo in a three-minute video welcoming delegates,” Bloomberg reports that his “absence … has activists talking.” The news service discusses Obama’s campaign schedule, interviews advocates about his decision, and talks to policy experts regarding U.S. global AIDS funding. “Administration officials defended the president’s priorities and his attention to the issue,” Bloomberg writes, adding, “Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama’s National Security Council, said in an e-mail that ‘the most important metric for PEPFAR is lives saved, not dollars spent, and through smart investments we are delivering results'” (Brower, 7/25).
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).
“The chairman of the House agricultural appropriations panel warned anti-hunger groups on Tuesday that their pleas for more funding will fall on deaf ears unless they’re willing to deal with the politics of foreign aid,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports. According to the blog, “[t]hat includes support for genetically modified crops, better accountability from nonprofit groups, outreach to members of Congress and understanding that aid recipients’ votes against the United States at the United Nations matter, said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.).”
“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).
International medicines financing mechanism UNITAID said on Monday it “will invest more than $140 million to evaluate point-of-care [PoC] HIV diagnostic and monitoring technology in seven African countries,” PlusNews reports, adding, “New technology could help put more people living with HIV on treatment faster and improve care, UNITAID partners said at the international AIDS conference in Washington, D.C.” (7/25). “The investment … is being committed to projects implemented by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), UNICEF and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to increase access to affordable point-of-care HIV diagnostics adapted for use in resource-poor settings,” aidsmap notes in a news story on its webpage (Smart, 7/24).