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AIDS 2010: Obama, Clinton Vow U.S. Support To Global Fight Against HIV/AIDS

During the closing ceremonies of the International AIDS Conference-AIDS 2010, President Barack Obama “on Friday pledged to redouble efforts to fight HIV and AIDS through his Global Health Initiative, despite dealing with economic hard times in the wake of a global recession,” Reuters reports.  According to the news service, “Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said their focus was on a broad, sustainable and effective approach to the global epidemic” (Kelland, 7/23).

“Speaking via prerecorded video at the close of an international conference on fighting the disease, the two said they were committed to building upon progress and taking the lead in ensuring a sustainable and effective response,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (Oleksyn, 7/23).

“Ending this pandemic won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight,” Obama said, Agence France-Presse reports. “But thanks to you, we’ve come a long way, and the United States is committed to continuing that progress” (7/23).

Reuters adds that the president “said he was facing a tough fiscal environment at home but said the United States was committed to helping AIDS health charities and aid workers build on progress” (Kelland, 7/23).

“Clinton, in her comments, said the United States believes access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care should be a universal and shared responsibility and said health was a human right,” the AP continues.

“As we push to expand access to these resources, the United States will continue to work with our partner countries and with civil society to help empower citizens to lead the charge in their own countries,” she said, according to the news service. 

According to the news service, Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa also spoke via video and “stressed that HIV prevention, treatment, care and support are a human rights priority.”

“To deny treatment is to deny life itself,” Tutu said (7/23).

The next International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington from July 22 to 27, 2012, AFP adds (7/23).

The closing ceremony with Obama and Clinton’s message is now available online as part of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s AIDS 2010 webcast coverage.

U.N. Torture Expert Warns Of Spread Of HIV/AIDS In Prisons

Addressing delegates at AIDS 2010 on Friday, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak warned that overcrowded prisons are allowing the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS, creating what he called “a global prison crisis,” the Associated Press reports.

“Often, inmates are held in inhumane conditions in which the HIV virus is spread through the use of non-sterile drug injection equipment, sexual contacts, tattooing and sharing of razors, … Nowak said,” according to the AP.

During his speech, he “urged authorities to inform prisoners of the risk of HIV transmission and offer them free condoms, HIV testing and counseling” and encouraged “prisons to offer needle and syringe programs, opiate substitution therapies and methadone treatments.” He also appealed for prison guards to do more to stop sexual and physical violence and for prisons to reduce overcrowding (Oleksyn, 7/23).

“We have 30 million persons that enter and leave prisons every year in the world,” Nowak said during his speech, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C. “So it means it’s not just a prison health problem, it’s a public health problem” (7/23).

“Nowak said that, although reliable figures are hard to come by, the prevalence of HIV in prisons is generally much higher than in a country’s wider population,” the AP adds. “In Ukraine, for example, the prevalence of HIV in prison is at least 10 times that of the overall population, he said” (7/23).

Tenofovir Safe To Use As HIV Preventive Among High-Risk Groups, CDC Scientists Say 

Also on Friday, scientists from the CDC presented data at AIDS 2010 that suggested Gilead’s tenofovir “is safe to be given to men at high risk of contracting [HIV] as a preventive measure,” but noted “further trials are needed to test its efficacy,” Reuters reports.

For the study, which included 400 HIV-negative gay men from San Francisco, Atlanta and Boston, researchers analyzed the safety of a 300 milligram tablet of tenofovir taken daily. “We didn’t find any increased risk of harm in medical terms, and on the behavioural side the preliminary work we’ve done also suggests there is no increased risk,” Lisa Grohskopf, who led the study, said of the findings.

“The approach of taking a daily antiretroviral drug to try to prevent HIV infection is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP,” Reuters adds, noting other studies looking into PrEP among high-risk groups.

“If PrEP proves effective it could provide an additional safety net for men who have sex with men and other individuals at high risk, when used in combination with other proven prevention strategies,” the researchers said, according to Reuters (Kelland, 7/23).

AIDS 2010 Highlights Needs Of People Living With HIV/AIDS Into Their 60s, Views Of Youth On HIV/AIDS

Agence France-Presse reports on the “social and medical challenge,” highlighted at the AIDS conference, “as millions of people with HIV survive into old age.”

“The problem is only now becoming apparent as the first generation living with the human immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV) head towards their 60th birthday and beyond, thanks to the lifeline of antiretroviral drugs, say specialists,” AFP writes, noting that survivors are mostly in western countries, but will “soon be followed by millions of counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa and other poor countries where the drug rollout started in the middle of the last decade.”

“There have always been older people with HIV, but what is new is the numbers, that will require new public health thinking compared to the past,” said Gottfried Hirnschall, director of HIV/AIDS at the WHO. “We have to discuss this subject,” he said. “Ageing with HIV is not just a clinical challenge, it is a clinical and a social challenge, and it’s not just confined to one part of the world versus another.”

The article includes information from experts about some of the major challenges facing older people living with HIV/AIDS (Ingham, 7/22).

VOA News reports on a panel at AIDS 2010 featuring young people who discussed their attitudes about HIV/AIDS.

“The speakers – all in their 20s – have never known a world without HIV/AIDS. The pandemic is 30 years old. At AIDS 2010, they had a message for those of the older generation: Treat us with respect – and give us the resources and responsibility to make a difference,” the news service writes.

Speakers included: Remmy Shawa, who founded men and gender program at the University of Zambia; Chantale Kallas, regional coordinator for the group Youth Rise in Lebanon; Catlin Chandler, coordinator of the HIV Youth Leaders Fund from the U.S.; and Sydney Hushie, program coordinator for the Global Youth Coalition on HIV and AIDS in Accra, Ghana (DeCapua, 7/22).

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