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AIDS 2010: Halving HIV/TB Co-infection Deaths; Financial Transaction Tax Discussed, And More

UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership joined together on Thursday at the International AIDS Conference-AIDS 2010 in Vienna, Austria, with the goal of preventing 200,000 deaths annually from HIV and tuberculosis co-infection, Agence France-Presse reports. TB is the number one killer of people living with HIV/AIDS (Ingham, 7/22).

The organizations “agreed to step up joint efforts to halve by 2015 the number of people living with HIV who die from” TB, according to the U.N. News Centre. The agreement also “aims to provide life-saving antiretroviral treatment for all TB patients living with HIV,” the news service notes (7/22).

“Stop TB and UNAIDS will press government health programmes to reach all people in need of care for TB/HIV by integrating the services that provide diagnosis and treatment for both conditions; and also seek to increase the resources needed to accomplish this goal. Another overarching objective is to galvanize civil society organizations, communities affected by TB and HIV and the private sector to form strong partnerships aimed at jointly addressing TB/HIV,” a UNAIDS press release states (7/22).

“This is completely unacceptable. TB is a preventable and curable disease,” said Jorge Sampaio, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy for TB prevention, who presided over the signing of the memorandum, AFP reports.

“We are talking about a massive human tragedy,” Marcos Espinal, the executive secretary of Stop TB, said. “African countries in particular have been devastated by co-infection,” he said, adding that several billion dollars would be required to reach the 2015 target, but that a lot of the money could come from existing funds. “There is a package of activities that if properly implemented by countries will work,” he said.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, “We already have the tools to keep people living with HIV from dying of TB” (7/22).

A webcast of this event is now available online.

Financial Transaction Tax To Fund HIV/AIDS Discussed

Funding for HIV/AIDS programs in a tough economic climate continued to be a major focal point of AIDS 2010 on Wednesday, where HIV/AIDS advocates discussed how a “‘Robin Hood’ tax of just a fraction of a percent on financial transactions” could be used to overcome the funding gaps for global HIV/AIDS programs, Agence France-Presse reports.

“Robin Hood taxes are the answer to the question that everyone at this conference has been asking, which is: ‘How can we keep financing a great scale-up in services against HIV/AIDS?’,” Khalil Elouardighi of Coalition PLUS, said Wednesday, according to the news service. “A micro-tax of just 0.005 percent on all financial transactions would raise some 33 billion dollars (25.75 billion euros) per year worldwide, he said” (Wissgott, 7/21).

Funding for HIV/AIDS in 2009 was “7.6 billion dollars, after 7.7 billion dollars in 2008,” according to a joint report released Sunday by the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS, Radio France International notes. This ended “six successive years of double digit increases. In 2002 funding for anti-HIV drugs and other initiatives were a mere 1.2 billion,” according to the news service. 

“Campaigners at [AIDS 2010] said the time was right to push for innovative financing solutions for development, ahead of a summit on Millennium Development Goals in September and a G20 meeting in November,” the news service writes (7/22).

AFP notes that UNITAID Chair Philippe Douste-Blazy, whose group has implemented “a small tax on airline tickets, implemented by France and 11 other countries, that has provided drugs to prevent HIV infections from mothers to their babies,” addressed conference participants about the prospects of a financial transaction tax.

“It is up to us to explain to the heads of state that they do not have any other solution because we know that it only depends on political will,” Douste-Blazy said. “The tax was technically feasible but the key was now to make sure the money was used for development, rather than to reimburse state debt or rescue banks, he said.”

The article includes additional comments by Christoph Benn of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who emphasized that a financial transaction tax should not substitute country aid commitments.  

“We are not taking away any pressure from governments to provide additional resources from their development budgets: that is a given, that is our first request, that they increase their contributions,” Benn said. “The Global Fund is seeking 17 billion dollars in pledges from 2011 to 2013,” AFP adds (7/21).

An AIDS 2010 webcast on innovative funding mechanisms is available online.

Guardian Examines U.S. HIV/AIDS Commitment, Advocate Criticisms

The Guardian examines the Obama administration’s response to HIV/AIDS advocates assertion that President Obama has “reneged on promises to increase U.S. funding to fight AIDS.”

“Activists say Obama promised an extra $50bn (£33bn) for AIDS by 2013 before he was elected but is now flat-lining AIDS funding,” the newspaper writes. “Obama has made HIV/AIDS part of a Global Health Initiative that is to get an overall funding increase of 8% – but other initiatives, particularly on cutting the deaths of women in childbirth and their babies, will get a bigger increase” than HIV/AIDS, according to the Guardian.

The article includes comments by Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, who “said Obama was disturbed by activists’ charges, pointing out that the U.S. is the world’s largest donor towards the fight against HIV/AIDS,” and former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who on Monday during a speech at AIDS 2010 also came to Obama’s defense.

The article also details why without an increase in funding from the U.S. for global HIV/AIDS programs, advocates worry other countries will scale back their commitments (Boseley, 7/21).

WHO Highlights Gaps In HIV/AIDS Prevention, Services Between Western, Eastern Europe

The WHO on Wednesday highlighted the visible disparities between access to HIV treatment and prevention services in Western and Eastern Europe, which the agency believes is behind “rapidly rising rates of new HIV infections in countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, Estonia and Latvia,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 7/21).

“There were more than 1.2 million reported HIV cases in the region by the end of 2008, with over 100,000 new infections occurring during that year,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “The number of reported cases every year is now relatively constant in Western Europe, at roughly 20,000 per year, but increasing in the East at some 80,000 annually” (7/21).

“While HIV epidemics in Western Europe are, with some exceptions, generally stabilizing, in many countries in Eastern Europe, they rage out of control,” Andrew Ball of the WHO’s HIV/AIDS department said, addressing AIDS 2010, according to Reuters. “The rate of increase of new HIV infections in Europe is now the highest in the world.”

The article examines contributing factors to the spread of the virus, including transmission among injecting drug users (IDUs), and contrasts the number of HIV-positive patients who have access to AIDS drugs in Eastern versus Western Europe.

While “[t]he number of people in Europe who get AIDS drugs … doubled from 2003 to 500,000 in 2008, Martin Donoghoe, the WHO’s program manager for HIV/AIDS in the region,” said the vast majority of those new patients were in the West. “In Eastern Europe, only around 23 percent of people who need HIV/AIDS medicines can actually get them,” according to Reuters (7/21).

The WHO called upon the European government and their partners to work together to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe, U.N. News Centre adds (7/21).

Patent Pool, Potential New HIV Drug, Researchers Discuss Potential For Cure

“Drugmakers Merck, Tibotec and Gilead are in advanced talks with UNITAID about a patent pool to make AIDS drugs more widely available to the poor, the health funding agency said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 7/21). The Financial Times reports that a $6 million “initial budget for the first year has been allocated for the pool, which has just been incorporated as a Swiss foundation.” Ellen ‘t Hoen, coordinator of the pool, told the paper that she hopes to announce deals within a year, with priority placed on a new combination of Gilead’s tenofovir and an experimental compound from Tibotec. (Jack, 7/21).

In a separate article, Reuters reports that GlaxoSmithKline is “progressing a new drug against HIV into final stage clinical testing, ramping up competition in a class of AIDS drugs known as integrase inhibitors. According to Reuters, analysts believe the drug, S/GSK1349572, could reach the market in 2013 if it performs well in testing. “Success with ‘572 could signal the re-emergence of Glaxo as a significant player to rival Gilead in the HIV marketplace,” following last year’s emergence of ViiV, a joint venture of Glaxo and Pfizer, the news service writes (Hirschler, 7/21). ViiV Healthcare’s “ambition is to deliver one new product per year by 2012 onwards,” Dominique Limet, chief executive of the company told Reuters on Thursday (Kelland, 7/22).

In other news, the Globe and Mail writes that “with an effective treatment in place, researchers are turning their attention the ultimate goal” of finding a cure for AIDS. The article discusses two research paths being explored: a “functional cure,” which suppresses the virus and a “sterilizing cure,” that would eliminate HIV from the body (Picard, 7/21).

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