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Opinions: Maintain Fight Against HIV/AIDS; Ending MTCT of HIV; Impact Of U.S. Health Reform On Foreign-Trained Physicians

U.N. Secretary-General Calls For International Community To ‘Rally Around’ Next Generation Of HIV Treatment, Increase Support For Countries In Need

Following a recent trip to the largest HIV/AIDS clinic in Uganda, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reflects on the recent progress made in the fight against the disease in a McClatchy opinion piece. Though “Uganda was the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. …Uganda is also a success story,” Ban writes. “A decade ago, fewer than 10,000 people were on the new generation of antiretroviral drugs that suppress the disease and offer the promise of a normal life. Today, that figure is 200,000, thanks in large measure to generous support from the United States (under its PEPFAR program) and the Global Fund in Geneva.” Ban names several other African nations who have demonstrated similar progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“And yet, there is a new and growing danger that these advances might not be sustained,” Ban continues, before describing the challenges associated with the number of patients in need of treatment as “money … is drying up,” due, in part, to the global recession, and a shift in the focus of donors “from AIDS to other diseases, where there is a sense that more lives can be saved more cheaply.” Ban details the impact of funding shortages for HIV/AIDS treatments in Uganda and concludes, “At the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, in July, I hope the international community will rally around UNAIDS’ launch of Treatment 2.0 – the next generation of HIV treatment, which must be more affordable, more effective and accessible to all” (6/15).

UNAIDS Executive Director: Let’s End Mother-To-Child Transmission Of HIV By World Cup 2014

In a New Vision opinion piece, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe describes the opportunity the World Cup presents to talk openly about HIV: Not only does “a celebrated sporting event such as the World Cup … encourage the spread of HIV through the combination of alcohol and unsafe sex,” Sidibe writes, but “almost 80 babies are born with HIV during the 90 minutes it takes to play a football match. This translates into 430,000 babies infected each year. Because we have the means to stop this tragedy, we must act today.”

Sidibe describes how UNAIDS has teamed up with leaders among the football community in a campaign to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by the time the next World Cup is held in 2014, before noting the successes and challenges in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) to date. “To date, football captains from a range of countries – Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Ghana, Greece, Nigeria, Paraguay, Serbia, South Africa and Uruguay – have signed an appeal committing them to use the power and outreach of football to create an HIV-free generation,” Sidibe writes. “As the football fever spreads across the globe, let’s do everything we can to stop the spread of HIV” (6/14).

U.S. Health Reform Law Will Lure More Physicians From Developing Countries

“U.S. health-care reform will exact an excruciating cost on the developing world,” by driving thousands of foreign-trained health workers away from countries to help meet the growing demand for doctor’s in America, Kate Tulenko, deputy director of CapacityPlus, USAID’s program addressing the global health workforce shortage, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. Though the health overhaul law “will provide an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans with health insurance … the United States will need to rapidly grow its supply of doctors and nurses to meet the demand that creates – a fact that will surely attract qualified doctors and nurses to America’s higher salaries, better working conditions, and promise of a booming industry,” Tulenko writes.

Tulenko reflects on the U.S.’s current dependence on foreign-trained health workers, noting that “though the prospects for emigrating physicians might be good, the consequences for the countries they leave behind are grave.” Tulenko notes the irony in the fact that “while the United States is recruiting thousands of doctors to its shores each year, it is simultaneously spending billions trying to build health systems in precisely the countries whose physicians it is stealing away.” She concludes: “Until the United States is self-sufficient in the education of its own health workers, it will continue to risk the health of the most vulnerable people in the United States and abroad” (6/11).