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AIDS 2010 Opinions

Despite ‘Significant’ Finding With Microbicide, Muti-Front Fight Against HIV Needed

“[T]hree decades in the AIDS war has shown that no single answer will win it, short of a magic-bullet vaccine that continues to elude researchers. Even if one was found, there would still be the 33 million-and-counting who are living with the virus that crashes the human immune system,” according to a San Francisco Chronicle editorial. “What it will take is a battery of responses, and this week produced one,” the editorial states, noting the microbicide gel for women that was found to reduce the risk of HIV infection. 

“Since half the AIDS population is female, the finding is significant. … Much more work is needed,” the San Francisco Chronicle writes. “The need for global attention to the AIDS crisis remains as urgent as ever. The Vienna conference produced signs of progress that were both welcome and maddeningly limited” (7/22).

AIDS Community Must Remember What It’s Fighting For

In the disagreement about the required funding for antiretrovirals in the developing world, “[b]oth sides are right. But to be honest, I think they are also both asking the wrong questions” Foreign Policy Assistant Managing Editor Elizabeth Dickinson writes on the publication’s “Passport” blog. “This fight seems to have paralyzed all other discussion, pushing debates about prevention, about coinciding diseases like tuberculosis, even about mother-to-child transmission, to the background – at least to the back of what the public is hearing from the conference. If there’s concern about dollars spent, the Obama administration is pledging a whopping $63 billion in new global health spending. Why not focus on how great that could be for HIV/AIDS patients – if people cooperate and get on board?”

“[I]n this case, everyone actually agrees on the importance of HIV/AIDS. They just don’t agree how to do it. Attacks against the other side’s commitment to the cause aren’t helpful; better to sit down and learn from one another. Sounds like a kumbaya moment, I know, but I still don’t think it’s such a bad idea. … So a plea from an outsider: Remember what you’re fighting against. (Hint: it’s not each other.)” (7/22).

Health Outcomes Improve When Governments Don’t Hamper Trade, Not Because Of Cash Transfers

A Wall Street Journal editorial addresses a recent World Bank study, which found that cash payments significantly lowered rates of HIV in Malawi. At AIDS 2010 “in Vienna, the Bank is heralding this as evidence that giving away money in poor countries can actually do good. But a more pertinent lesson may be that in the world’s poorest countries, even a little bit of extra prosperity can yield unexpected dividends,” the editorial states. “The study is being touted as proof that rich countries should step up their direct transfers to poor countries around the world – which might work, as long as the money lasts. The World Bank’s program lasted only two years; an interesting follow-up might track these women’s behavior and HIV rates after they stopped getting free money,” according to the newspaper.

“Handouts improve health outcomes, but a lack thereof is not the real obstacle to Malawians’ well-being. The fault there lies with poor governance in the country, which includes corruption, trade tariffs, discriminatory regulations, and licensing requirements that hamper trade,” the editorial argues. It concludes: “Encouraging improvements in these areas – for example, by withholding direct aid transfers to governments that fall short – would go a long way to increasing business opportunities in Malawi and around the world. And a proliferation of such opportunities, in turn, is the long-term solution to improving health and other outcomes for the roughly 14.8 million Malawians who didn’t win the World Bank’s time-limited lottery” (7/22).

More Focus On Prevention Needed

“Much of the work at the [AIDS 2010] was overshadowed by venomous protesters and the blame-America crowd, who say the U.S. president and U.S. taxpayers aren’t spending enough money to battle the dreaded disease. Shame on them, because we aren’t shortchanging anyone when it comes to funding. The ledgers prove that Americans have been leading the way since Day One nearly 30 years ago,” columnist Deborah Simmons writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. According to Simmons, global HIV/AIDS control efforts should “focus more energy on preventing new infections” and advocates for abstinence, which she calls the “most effective HIV/AIDS inhibitor known to man.”

“Handing out clean needles and condoms should not be our first line of defense [against HIV/AIDS]. Both widespread policies enable risky behavior that can lead to transmitting sexually transmitted diseases and new HIV infections,” Simmons continues. “For sure, we must continue providing assistance to people already infected. Not to do so would be inhumane. But in order to really and truly combat HIV/AIDS, we must attack the disease on the front end,” she writes  (7/22).