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AIDS 2010: Advocates March In Vienna For Human Rights Of HIV/AIDS Patients

Thousands of HIV/AIDS advocates, gathered for the International AIDS Conference-AIDS 2010, “marched through Vienna’s city centre on Tuesday evening, demanding more respect for human rights in the fight against HIV,” Agence France-Presse reports.

Julio Montaner, director of the International AIDS Society and co-chair of AIDS 2010, Michel Sidibe, head of UNAIDS and Michel Kazatchkine, head of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, helped lead the march, according to the news service (7/20). The group “[g]athered in Vienna’s famous Heroes Square, or Heldenplatz,” where they “urged governments around the world to increase their funding for fighting the illness,” the Associated Press adds. Singer Annie Lennox, who was recently appointed as a UNAIDS ambassador, also performed during the event, the news service writes (7/20).

A separate Agence France-Presse article examines how Lennox is drawing attention to human rights in the global fight against HIV/AIDS at AIDS 2010: “Funding the fight against AIDS ‘should not be something charitable, [Lennox] told AFP in an interview,” the news service writes. “We need to say: ‘this is about human rights,’” Lennox said (7/19).

Rise Of HIV/AIDS In E. Europe, C. Asia

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports on how injection drug use (IDU) is contributing to the rising number of new HIV/AIDS infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – another topic taking center stage at AIDS 2010.

“An estimated 1.5 million adults and children were living with HIV in the region in 2008, a 66 percent increase from 900,000 in 2001, according to the United Nations,” and “[e]arly indications show that the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases climbed again last year,” according to data from UNAIDS,  the news service writes.

“Eastern Europe has some of the highest concentrations of HIV among people who inject drugs,” said Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS. “This epidemic is inflamed by stigma and punitive laws and won’t stop burning until harm reduction and drug substitution are scaled up.”

The article details the toll of HIV/AIDS on youth and women in the region and includes comments by a researcher who published a report examining the rise of HIV/AIDS in the Russian Federation and a women living with HIV from the region (Oleksyn, 7/20).

South African Health Minister Discusses Country’s HIV Prevention, Treatment Plan

The HIV prevalence rate in South Africa “seems to have stabilised around 29%, but is still extraordinarily high,” the country’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Tuesday at AIDS 2010, News24/SAPA reports.

The minister “told delegates there were an estimated 5.5 million South Africans infected with the HIV virus, of whom over one million were now receiving treatment for the disease.” For the past 20 years, South Africa has conducted a national prevalence survey among pregnant women attending public clinics, according to News24/SAPA. Motsoaledi said the survey “constitutes the best record of our HIV prevalence levels and shows the speed with which the epidemic has taken hold.” He also said that in the country “43% of maternal mortality is HIV related” and “57% of deaths of children under the age of five during 2007, were as a result of HIV” (7/20).

Also in his speech, Motsoaledi said, “I can stand before you here today to state categorically that in 2010 all of South Africa is united behind our one goal on HIV prevention and treatment,” and that South Africa is guided by science, best practice and a responsibility to provide universal access to health services, according to VOA News. “The South African National AIDS Council has got a plan called the national strategy plan or NSP. It has two main objectives, which are to be achieved by 2011. Objective number one is to reduce the number of HIV infected people by half. And objective number two – to provide comprehensive treatment, care and support to 80 percent of those who need it,” the minister said (DeCapua, 7/20).

Motsoaledi’s speech is now available online as part of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s webcasting of AIDS 2010.

Advocates Seek To Raise Female Condom Profile

The female condom has “failed to gain the profile it deserves in the fight against AIDS” despite being as effective as its male equivalent, Agence France-Presse writes, reporting on advocates that highlighted the issue at AIDS 2010. The article includes comments from members of the Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE), Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC), Community Initiative for Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria (CITAM+) and Oxfam, who spoke with reporters at the conference.

Challenges to distributing female condoms include cost and a “need for innovative marketing and design,” AFP reports. Carol Nawina Nyirenda of CITAM+ said “a female condom is 50 cents, compared to a male condom which is for one cent.” The article also notes that Jim Clarken of Oxfam cited studies conducted in Cameroon and Nigeria that showed “‘an incredibly high rate of acceptability of female condoms by both men and women,’ he said” (7/20).

All of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s webcasts of select sessions from AIDS 2010 are available at www.kff.org/aids2010.