The PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” blog features an interview with journalist Jon Cohen, in which he discusses the possibility of an “AIDS-free generation,” recent reports from UNAIDS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AIDS funding, HIV vaccine research, and World AIDS Day. “So there’s good news in the sense that the epidemic has stabilized, that new infections are dropping compared to a decade ago. And the more sobering news is there’s a lot of progress that the world collectively agreed should happen by 2015 … and it just doesn’t look like much of it is going to happen,” Cohen said about data in the UNAIDS’ World AIDS Day report: Results, the blog reports (Kane, 11/30).
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As part of its series titled “The State of HIV/AIDS,” GlobalPost published two stories examining the epidemic in different regions of the world. In one article, the news service looks at the spread and control of HIV in Asia, writing, “No generalized epidemic has broken out across the region, HIV infection rates have stabilized in many countries, and more and more people are receiving antiretroviral medication.” However, “[t]he disease continues to spread: for every person in Asia that begins antiretroviral treatment, roughly two new adults are infected with HIV. Moreover, funding is too tight — the total of $1.1 billion spent on campaigns in Asia in 2009 was less than one-third of what the U.N. says is needed for universal success,” according to the news service (Carlson, 12/1). In a second article, GlobalPost says in Africa, “statistics tell an upbeat story,” noting that the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen over the past decade. “But despite all the positive progress, experts warn against complacency. Sub-Saharan Africa still accounted for almost three-quarters of all new HIV infections worldwide last year,” the news service continues (McConnell, 12/3).
“The success in reducing the number of children born with HIV is in danger of leaving children who already have the disease with poor access to treatment, experts in HIV and AIDS have warned,” BMJ reports. “Denis Broun, executive director of UNITAID, a not-for-profit organization that purchases drugs for the treatment of HIV and AIDS and other diseases, has welcomed news that the number of new infections in children is falling,” the journal writes, adding, “But he said that because fewer children are born with the virus, drug companies would no longer have an incentive to manufacture treatments and that childhood HIV might become a neglected disease.”
In recognition of World AIDS Day on December 1, the U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote” blog published several posts examining HIV/AIDS around the world. The following summarize those posts.
Noting the U.S. government on Thursday “unveiled a major new strategy for pushing towards achieving an ‘AIDS-free generation,'” Inter Press Service writes, “The far-reaching new blueprint for what’s known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is being widely lauded, yet little attention has been given to a document, published in October, that stipulates how new PEPFAR funding can be used.” The news service notes, “[a]ccording to that guidance, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities.'” “The language in the guidance was put there to make clear what exactly (PEPFAR) could and couldn’t pay for — that’s problematic,’ Mary Beth Hastings with the Center for Health and Gender Equity, a Washington advocacy group, told IPS,” the news service writes. An unnamed spokesperson from PEPFAR “told IPS … that ‘there are other entities, particularly USAID, that meet that need [for family planning]. We’re very interested in integrating our services,'” the news service writes (Biron, 11/29).
In recognition of World AIDS Day on December 1, the Atlantic features a collection of new and previous stories related to HIV/AIDS, titled “AIDS Around the World: Prevention, Treatment and Beyond.” The section, sponsored by Chevron, features a story on HIV in China, an outlook on HIV treatment, and a GIF showing annual adult HIV prevalence worldwide (11/30).
With the average life expectancy for South Africans at 60 years old, the country “has achieved a ‘stunning’ increase in life expectancy in the last three years due to a government push to roll out antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to people with HIV/AIDS,” according to a study (.pdf) published in the Lancet on Thursday, Reuters reports. Nearly two million of the six million people in the country living with HIV/AIDS are on antiretroviral treatment, compared with only 912,000 in 2009 when the life expectancy was 56.5 years, the news agency notes, adding that the country’s treatment program is the largest in the world.
Officials with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said Greece must act to combat a rising number of HIV cases within high-risk populations, including drug users, or face increased health care costs in the future, Reuters reports. ECDC Director Marc Sprenger said, “Immediate concerted action is needed in order to curb and eventually stop the current outbreak,” according to the news agency. “Sprenger will meet Greek officials this week to say that free needles, syringes and opioid substitution projects must be stepped up, and testing and treatment for the human immunodeficiency virus made available to all,” Reuters writes, noting the ECDC published a report on HIV in Greece (Kelland, 11/29). The ECDC “reported 314 cases of the AIDS-causing virus among injecting drug users in the first eight months of this year,” compared “with 208 for all of 2011 and no more than 15 cases a year from 2001 to 2010,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. While the extent to which Greece’s economic crisis has contributed to the outbreak is unclear, austerity measures and high unemployment may fuel new infections in Athens and beyond the capital unless programs to provide methadone, clean needles and condoms are expanded, the … ECDC said,” the news agency writes (Bennett, 11/30).
“[O]ne thing I’ve learned from working on HIV/AIDS my entire political career — we are far better united than divided,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Politico opinion piece, noting examples of bipartisan legislation that “help to slow the rate of infections and reduce the number of deaths from AIDS.” She continues, “We can put into place the policies that can help end AIDS. Even in a time of fiscal uncertainty, we have the resources. We just have to be smart about it, and that means responding to the reality of HIV and not the luxury of our political comfort.” Lee writes, “Worldwide, we have to maximize our efficiency and build programs that make sense,” including integrating family planning, maternal health, and HIV services and “respond[ing] to the needs expressed by key populations, including men who have sex with men, sex workers, and people who inject drugs.” She says, “As long as we are supporting laws that limit comprehensive sex education, deny federal funding for syringe exchange services, or criminalize people living with HIV for consensual sex, biting and spitting, we are allowing HIV to thrive.”
“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday unveiled a game plan for achieving a global ‘AIDS-free generation,’ committing the United States to rapidly scaling up medical interventions that are beating back what once was seen as an unconquerable disease,” Reuters reports (Quinn, 11/29). “Clinton announced the plan, officially titled the ‘President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation,’ [.pdf] at the State Department, two days ahead of World AIDS Day,” CNN notes (Ariosto, 11/29). The 54-page blueprint — “immediately welcomed by AIDS researchers and advocates” — aims “to treat as many people as possible, both to keep them well and to help keep them from infecting others” and will target high-risk populations, such as drug users, gay men, and sex workers, NBC News’ “Vitals” blog writes. The blog notes Clinton released new PEPFAR data (.pdf) showing the program has provided antiretroviral treatment to more than five million people worldwide (Fox, 11/29). “The report from [PEPFAR] states that the world is at a ‘tipping point’ on AIDS, and promises to usher in a generation free of the disease,” The Hill’s “Healthwatch” blog states (Viebeck, 11/29). Once the number of people on treatment surpasses the number of new infections every year, “[w]e will then get ahead of the pandemic and an AIDS-free generation will be in our sight,” Clinton said, Politico Pro reports (Smith, 11/29). The Washington Post adds, “But she warned: ‘Now we have to deliver. … The history of global health is littered with grand plans that never panned out'” (Brown, 11/29).