World AIDS Day: IAC To Be Held In D.C.; Examination Of Obama’s HIV/AIDS Efforts; UNICEF Report

During a briefing on the eve of World AIDS Day Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the International AIDS Society (IAS) has chosen Washington, D.C., to host the 2012 International AIDS Conference (IAC) now that the “decades-old ban on HIV-positive visitors” to the U.S. has been lifted, Agence France-Presse reports (11/30).

The conference – which will attract thousands of HIV/AIDS experts, advocates and policymakers – will mark the first on U.S. soil since 1990, according to Reuters. “We have to continue to seek a global solution to this global problem,” Clinton said at the briefing, held to discuss the Obama administration’s commitment to HIV/AIDS (Quinn, 11/30).

“The return of the conference to the United States is the result of years of dedicated advocacy to end a misguided policy based on fear, rather than science,” IAS President-elect Elly Katabira said in an IAS press release. “The ban on foreign nationals with HIV/AIDS visiting the United States will effectively be lifted early next year,” AFP writes (11/30).

Washington Post: “‘We are absolutely delighted,’ Robin Gorna, [IAS] executive director, said of Congress’s repeal, to take effect Jan. 4, of travel restrictions on HIV-positive foreigners. ‘It has been a matter of great distress to many of us that we have not been able to hold the conference in the United States because of discriminatory laws.'” Although “[t]he organizers of the conference do not ask attendees about their health status,” Gorna estimates in recent years the conferences have drawn “‘a couple of thousand, at least,’ … [who are] infected with the virus” (Brown, 12/1).

The IAS “urged other nations that maintain bans on HIV-positive visitors to follow suit,” according to Reuters (11/30).

“Twelve nations ban travel by people infected with HIV including China, which is reconsidering its policies as a result of the U.S. decision, Gorna said. Other nations include Malaysia, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, Bloomberg/Boston Globe reports. “This is a real moment in history to put an end to the AIDS crisis and we can only do that if we learn from each other,” said Gorna (12/1).

The Chicago-Tribune examines the history of the U.S.’s HIV travel ban (Rubin, 12/1).

Newsweek Examines PEPFAR Under Obama, Advocates Grade President’s HIV/AIDS Efforts

Newsweek examines the future of PEPFAR under the Obama Administration: “[A]fter years of steady gains in funding, health experts say PEPFAR’s funding will likely flatline under the Obama administration. At the same time, they expect the gap between the number of people who need treatment and the number getting it to widen,” the magazine writes.

“Up until now, PEPFAR was defined by the ‘E’ in its name: emergency. The emphasis was on starting up strong and making a big impact, which often meant bypassing local governments to get as many people on treatment as possible, as quickly as possible. But while that has produced impressive results, the approach is far from sustainable.”

The magazine continues that if the number of new infections does not decrease rapidly, “PEPFAR risks becoming a black hole of an entitlement program, committed to funding treatment indefinitely as more and more patients live longer and longer. … The way out of this conundrum, according to policy experts? Shift more resources over to prevention efforts. Transfer programs to local ownership and put national governments on the hook for delivering services. Monitor and evaluate which programs are working, then report the results.”

The article looks at how this approach is part of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby’s agenda for PEPFAR and includes information on the risk and benefits associated with changing PEPFAR (Paul, 11/30).

Clinton said at Monday’s World AIDS Day event that “President Obama is dedicated to enhancing America’s leadership in the fight against global AIDS, with PEPFAR serving as the cornerstone of our global health initiative to promote better and more sustainable health outcomes,” ABC’s “Political Punch” blog reports. 

The blog also examines a report card released by Health GAP, Africa Action, Treatment Action Group and the Global AIDS Alliance that gave President Obama’s HIV/AIDS efforts during his first year in office a “D+.” Among the greatest concerns of the group, the blog writes, is funding: “Despite repeated public commitments to expand funding for successful global AIDS programs, the first budget request to Congress prepared by President Obama, for FY2010, would for the first time essentially flat-fund U.S. global AIDS investments – it will not even keep pace with global medical inflation, estimated at 4-10% this year,” according to the report (Miller, 11/30).

Despite Gains, UNICEF Report Highlights Impact Of HIV/AIDS On Children

Despite some progress in HIV prevention and treatment targeting children, an annual report by UNICEF, the WHO and U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), released Monday, finds efforts still needed to connect children living with HIV/AIDS with treatment and protect children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, PlusNews reports.

The report examines progress “in four key areas in 2008: prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), paediatric HIV care and treatment, prevention of HIV among adolescents and young people, and protection and support for children affected by HIV and AIDS,” finding the greatest progress in PMTCT, “with 45 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women globally receiving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to prevent them passing HIV to their children; up from 24 percent in 2006,” the news service writes (11/30).

“According to UNICEF, infant diagnosis in the first two months of a newborn’s life and early initiation of [ARV] can substantially decrease child mortality, but globally, the report cited that only 15 percent of children born to HIV positive mothers are being tested within the first two months,” Xinhua/People’s Daily reports. The report also noted that “positive diagnosis of HIV on its own does not guarantee a child access to life-saving treatment,” the news service writes (12/1).

Leaders Call For Global Attention In Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Ahead of World AIDS Day, U.N. Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa, Elizabeth Mataka, called for emphasis on sustained HIV prevention programs targeting women and girls – a population “more vulnerable to HIV infections,” the Times of Zambia/ reports. Mataka also called attention to the need for enhanced prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) across the continent (12/1).

The BBC features an interview with French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy – also an ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – where she addresses the importance of targeting women and children in the fight against HIV/AIDS (Dreaper, 12/1).

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on Monday addressed the need for the international community to maintain its commitment to HIV/AIDS despite the state of the global economy, Xinhua reports. Bokova “called for cooperation within a framework of respect for human rights as a cornerstone of effective and equitable national responses to ensure genuine multisectoral responses to the AIDS epidemic,” the news service writes (12/1).

News Outlets Examines The Stigma Associated With HIV/AIDS

VOA News examines how despite the recent report that the number of new HIV infections worldwide has gone down, health experts worry that fear over the disease continues to “[bar] the path to more comprehensive prevention.” The article includes comments by several health experts on stigma and the need for improved HIV prevention programs (Hennessy, 11/30).

Reuters examines the impact of HIV/AIDS on children living with the disease in China: “Heavy stigma still surrounds the disease in China, and children – probably the most vulnerable group among AIDS patients – are almost invariably barred from schools and even abandoned by their parents and relatives.” The article continues, “China’s total HIV cases number about 740,000, of which about 100,000 have full-blown AIDS. … Some 10,000 children in China are HIV-positive, due mainly to botched blood transfusions or mother-to-child transmission,” the news service writes. The article also includes information about where the highest percentages of children living with HIV live and efforts to help them access treatments (Chan, 12/1).

Media Examines Country-Level Responses To HIV, World AIDS Day 

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