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AIDS 2012 Speakers Warn Vulnerable Populations Will Miss Out On HIV Prevention Advances

“Excitement about turning the tide in the fight against HIV is being tempered by researchers who worry some of the most vulnerable populations will miss out on medical advances,” delegates of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) heard at Thursday’s plenary session, VOA News reports (Seldin, 7/26). Ugandan physician Paul Semugoma, who works with homosexual and transgender patients, told the session that one of the biggest challenges is reaching people at risk of HIV infection with prevention information, especially when stigma and discrimination are prevalent, VOA says in another article (7/26). “Semugoma says too many physicians fail to ask their patients about their sexual histories in a misguided effort not to discriminate,” VOA writes (7/26). Researcher Cheryl Overs of Australia’s Monash University spoke about how discrimination and stigma hinder the AIDS response among sex workers, VOA reports in yet another article (Seldin, 7/26). Speaking about new HIV prevention methods, Overs said, “The risk to sex workers of all genders will be enormous if condoms are replaced by partially effective HIV methods that do not protect against STIs [i.e., sexually transmitted infections] or unwanted pregnancies,” according to the news service.

Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO HIV Department, told delegates that more must be done to address the epidemic among vulnerable populations, the news service notes. “Now is not the time to be timid. It is critical that our ambition and our commitment match the incredible potential of this moment,” Hirnschall said (7/26). Hirnschall spoke about expanding treatment access, and said the world should reach the target of 15 million people in developing countries on antiretroviral drugs by 2015, as eight million are currently taking them, the Associated Press reports (Neergaard, 7/26). At a special session on leadership and the HIV response among women, former first lady Laura Bush “reminded conference attendees that despite all of the difficulties in fighting HIV and AIDS, the past decade has seen tremendous progress,” VOA notes. She said, “Rather than waiting quietly for death, millions who suffer from HIV are now working and participating in their communities,” the news service reports (7/26).