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AIDS 2012 Plenary Speakers Call For Expanded Efforts To Provide HIV Treatment, Prevention To Women, Children

AIDS experts speaking at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Wednesday called for an expansion of HIV care and treatment to all women instead of focusing only on those who are pregnant, the Associated Press reports. While many countries have programs to treat pregnant women with HIV infection with antiretroviral treatment (ART) to lessen the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, UNICEF Senior Programme Adviser Chewe Luo said at the plenary session that most countries do not continue providing ART after mothers wean their infants, the news service notes, adding, “She praised Malawi for starting to do just that” through a treatment initiative called Plan B+ (Neergaard, 7/25). According to the Guardian, the plan would add an additional $300 million to global treatment costs, but “people with HIV on treatment become far less likely to infect their partners, as well as their babies, so the additional outlay may be considered a good investment.” Luo said discussions with PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria about funding such programs are underway, the newspaper notes (Boseley, 7/25). In a satellite session on Tuesday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “commended countries and their international partners for recent progress in preventing new HIV infections among children and saving mothers’ lives,” health-e news reports (7/25).

In her plenary address, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta “echoed what has become a recurring theme of the meeting since U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared Monday that gender equity is crucial to protecting women,” the Associated Press/Washington Post writes. “These adolescent girls and young women, our sisters and daughters, represent an unfinished agenda in the AIDS response,” Rao Gupta said, the AP notes. She “called for innovative solutions to help women and girls protect themselves, … point[ing] to an experiment in Kenya that pays poor families a few dollars a month to help support AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children,” the news service writes (7/25). Linda Scruggs, a black American woman who has been living with HIV for 22 years, also spoke during the plenary, saying, “We are not asking you. We are telling you. It is time to address the inequality of women globally … we need to be part of the solution,” according to Agence France-Presse (Sheridan, 7/25).