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Opinions: Gender-Based Violence And HIV; AIDS Vaccine; Global NTDs; Responses To NYT HIV/AIDS Articles

To Curb HIV/AIDS, Stop Gender-Based Violence, U.S. Government Says

“Gender-based violence is a world-wide pandemic and directly affects the spread of HIV/AIDS. Fear of violence limits the ability of women and girls to choose their partners; to find out about a partner’s HIV status or disclose their own; and to get medical or counseling services,” according to a U.S. government editorial in VOA News.

“The United States recognizes the link between gender-based violence and global HIV/AIDS,” the editorial states, noting that the U.S. government has given PEPFAR “an additional 30 million dollars to scale up the response against gender-based violence, with significant funding going towards [existing programs in] Tanzania, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.” According to the editorial, “The idea is to use their experience in dealing with gender-based violence and HIV to scale-up gender-based violence programming and improve the coordination and efficiency of programs against gender-based violence. Some of the money will also be used to make health facilities more comprehensive and able to respond to victims of violence” (5/18).

World ‘Urgently Needs’ HIV Vaccine

“The world urgently needs” an HIV vaccine, Alash’le Abimiku, co-chair of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme Steering Committee and Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, write in an East African opinion piece examining the progress towards a vaccine and the outlook for ongoing development.

“With access to such vaccines, women would be empowered to protect themselves from HIV regardless of the choices made by their male sexual partners,” the authors write before noting the need for development “on a global scale.” According to the editorial, “Clinical facilities dedicated to AIDS vaccine development in Kenya and Uganda played a central role in the discovery of the new antibodies. Such successes underscore the continuing need for robust clinical trial networks that are equipped and staffed to help design and assess vaccine candidates in developing countries.” The authors also discuss the importance of volunteers for vaccine trials.

“Curbing the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa is critical to the economic growth of the region. An effective and accessible AIDS vaccine would be a vital asset in any such campaign – and Africa’s people have a great deal to contribute to its discovery,” the authors conclude (5/17).

Time To Stop Neglected NTDs

In a New York Times opinion piece, Peter Hotez, a professor at George Washington University and the president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, highlights the prevalence of “neglected tropical diseases” around the world, including the U.S. While President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative boosts efforts to fight these diseases, “which still make up the most common ailments among the world’s bottom billion[,] … it’s crucial that we remember that they plague communities much closer to home as well,” Hotez writes.

“Diseases like these represent one of the world’s – and our nation’s – greatest health disparities. But today, few doctors are familiar with them. This has to change, especially because many of them can be cured or prevented at astonishingly low cost with either inexpensive generic drugs or drugs donated by pharmaceutical companies,” Hotez writes, noting that “[m]ass distributions could control or eliminate most neglected tropical diseases from the Caribbean at an estimated cost of $20 million per year for five years.” Hotez also calls for the diseases to be investigated in the U.S. “Treating those at home should not come at the expense of the needy abroad, but we cannot ignore the neglected tropical diseases in our midst any longer,” he concludes (5/14).

Letters To The Editor Respond To New York Times’ HIV/AIDS Articles

The New York Times published letters to the editor (available here and here) responding to the newspaper’s series that examined the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide.

In one of the letters, Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, wrote that the articles “conveyed an unjustifiably negative picture of the global AIDS fight and America’s role in it.” According to Goosby, the U.S. “is expanding treatment in Uganda and throughout the [PEPFAR] countries. By 2014, we will be supporting treatment for more than four million people with HIV, and we recognize the role others must play in meeting the global need. While challenges remain, we are building on and expanding our successes, not walking away from them. This is a global responsibility, and we are using this success story to invite other governments and donors to join us in meeting it.”

Joseph O’Neill, the director of the White House Office of AIDS Policy under former President George W. Bush, wrote: “One of [PEPFAR’s] aims was to demonstrate that, with resources commensurate with need, high-level political leadership and good results-oriented management, health development dollars could have a real, measurable impact. Although well intended, the diluting of the aggressive stand of prior years against HIV/AIDS to finance other agendas is ultimately a disservice to all global health concerns. Rather, funding should be sought to mount an effective response on multiple health fronts.”

Letters from advocates and researchers are also featured (5/14).

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