Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Rounds Up Commentary on U.N. Special Session, Other AIDS-Related Issues
In newspapers throughout the country, editorials and op-eds continue to comment on the U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS and other AIDS-related issues. The following is a summary of the comments, arranged by the day of the week the article appeared.
- Newsday: The U.N. Declaration of Commitment for fighting HIV/AIDS is "at once boringly practical and crazily ambitious -- leavened with occasional flashes of courage," a Newsday editorial states. The declaration is "thoroughly unenforceable. But it serves an indispensable purpose," the editorial states, adding that it sets forth a "right way and a wrong way" to fight HIV/AIDS. The document also "ought to end a silly but debilitating spat" over treatment versus prevention efforts, the editorial says, noting that the two "go together." As UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot noted, the declaration serves as an "instrument of accountability" to hold nations and world leaders to the pledges made at the conference. "The world will not change its ideas overnight. Nor will it instantly defeat the onslaught of HIV," the editorial states. However, the declaration "was meant for the long haul -- as a way to shake the world's political leadership out of its coma, as a way to get the financial pipeline flowing, as a way to get rural health systems up and running, as a way to increase the pressure on everyone from global drug companies to the most obscure health ministers," it concludes (Newsday, 7/1).
- Philadelphia Inquirer: "There is no understating the achievement" of the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial states. The declaration is "clear in its demand that an epidemic transmitted largely by sex be faced 'in forthright terms'" and "underscores the importance of women's rights in combatting" the disease, it continues. "Twenty years ago, AIDS began relentlessly stalking the human race. Last week, perhaps, the human race began stalking AIDS," the editorial concludes (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/1).
- Eugene Register-Guard: "[W]ithout money and commitment, the accomplishments of last week's U.N. summit on AIDS will become little more than an aromatic rhetorical stew," a Eugene Register-Guard editorial states. However, "[w]hat's needed more than money is the kind of clarity and resolve that can only come from understanding and outrage over the growing dimensions of the disaster," it continues. The U.N. declaration is "bold, unprecedented and specific," the editorial concludes, adding that the world must express the "shared conviction that confronting the AIDS catastrophe is a global responsibility and necessity" (Eugene Register-Guard, 7/1).
- Fresno Bee: "It's not yet clear that governments are prepared to back their words with the funds and effort needed, or that traditional societies are willing to set aside cultural prejudices to cope pragmatically with the consequences of behavior that they object to," but the U.N. declaration is "heartening" because it "took on some of those prejudices," a Fresno Bee editorial states. Implementing the "broad goals" set forth in the document will be "complex and controversial," it continues. But the necessary improvements that must be made to health care infrastructure in developing countries may have the "major spinoff benefit" of attracting more foreign investment to the countries, "providing broader economic gains," the editorial concludes (Fresno Bee, 7/1).
- "The World Must Answer U.N.'s Challenge on AIDS": It is in the "national interest" of the United States to "encourage stable governments in the developing world, to eradicate poverty, to conquer disease. More importantly, it is in our human interest to push anyone we can, starting perhaps with religious congregations and our circles of business and social acquaintances, to address the international AIDS crisis," New York Daily News columnist E.R. Shipp writes. "Africans must do their part, but the United States must clearly do more than provide what Secretary of State Colin Powell described as seed money for the global fund" to fight the epidemic, she concludes (Shipp, New York Daily News, 7/1).
- "One Deadly Enemy We Know How to Defeat": "[P]athetically little" was said at the U.N. special session about how to stop the spread of HIV, nationally syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer writes. No leaders emerged calling for comprehensive sex education including education about the use of condoms, she notes, adding, "Far from being immoral as some would say, such a campaign could be the medical and reproductive concomitant of civil rights and human rights and could serve as a rallying point for restoring spirit and hope in these afflicted and demoralized countries." She notes the success of anti-AIDS efforts in Uganda, which "slashed" its infection rate from 14% to 8% through a "broad-based multi-sectoral campaign" that required public officials to talk about HIV prevention. However, "[m]ost leaders prefer to act after the fact rather than anticipate problems and prevent them. AIDS is hardly an enemy that we should choose to live with when it is one that so clearly can be defeated," she concludes (Geyer, Washington Times, 7/1).
- New York Times: "[O]ne of the biggest challenges" facing the global fight against HIV/AIDS is the absences of "working health care systems, a New York Times editorial states. Aiding developing nations should be "high on the list of priorities" for the global AIDS fund and must simultaneously include treatment of HIV/AIDS patients, it continues. "Improvements in AIDS health services would have a tremendous impact, not only on AIDS, but on third-world health in general. Patients who get regular counseling and medical care are less likely to transmit the AIDS virus and less likely to become desperately sick, overwhelming health care facilities," the editorial states. "Creating health services in nations where nothing works is a daunting task, but all of the steps are manageable if third-world leaders are committed to them and donor nations will provide enough money for long-term reform," it concludes (New York Times, 7/2).
- Akron Beacon Journal: HIV/AIDS has "challenged every aspect of private and public life," an Akron Beacon Journal editorial states, adding that the disease is an "economic threat," a "humanitarian challenge" and a "challenge to political leadership." U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been the "driving force that has pushed governments to confront HIV/AIDS at the highest international level." The U.N. special session "leaves participants ... with a credibility test," the editorial continues. "After the talking, what? Too many national leaders love posturing and hearing themselves talk when there is an audience, but their political agendas give the lie to their words," it states. "How many will devote the resources to build and staff health clinics, provide clean water and decent housing and educate their citizens about this deadly disease? Those are the measures that count," the editorial concludes (Akron Beacon Journal, 7/2/).
- St. Petersburg Times: The "good news" coming out of the special session was that "prevention was the assembly's overriding priority," a St. Petersburg Times editorial states. The Declaration of Commitment "outlined an aggressive course of action cantering on education, preventive care and a 'challenge (to) gender stereotypes and attitudes,' and gender inequalities in relation to HIV/AIDS, encouraging the active involvement of men and boys," it continues. "Prevention clearly is more than just encouraging safe sex. It will take a change in attitudes and behaviors to slow the disease's spread. Men and boys must change their behavior toward girls and women and social leaders must face the fact that AIDS spreads through sex and intravenous drug use," the editorial concludes (St. Petersburg Times, 7/2).
- Winnipeg Free Press: "No matter how you add it up ... this is a far cry from what is needed" from the international community in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a Winnipeg Free Press editorial states. At the U.N. summit, delegates could "not even agree on identifying the root problems of the disease," and "hardly more than" half a billion dollars of the estimated $7 billion to $10 billion needed annually to fight the disease was raised, it notes. "A plague of almost unprecedented proportions has hit Africa and the international community appears to be content to play ring-around-the-rosies," it concludes, referring to the nursery rhyme game that reportedly grew out of the Black Death in the 14th century (Winnipeg Free Press, 7/2).
- "U.N. Fund for AIDS Hides the Real Injustices": Although the creation of the Global AIDS and Health Fund "seems entirely laudable," it is "not that simple," the Irish Times' Brenda O'Brien writes in an opinion piece. She questions the need for the fund in the existence of "already well-established channels for the distribution of aid" and says that the U.N. assembly was "unpleasantly reminiscent of the excesses of telethon fundraising." If the goal of the Irish government is to reach people at the local level, then "little or no money should be channeled through the United Nations," she writes. Instead, the money should go directly to grassroots initiatives. She suggests that international officials address the poverty that "makes HIV/AIDS such a disaster in the first place," and the "abusive and exploitative" behavior that puts young people at greater risk of HIV infection. "Simply handing out condoms does nothing to change such abusive trends," but "may allow governments off the hook for deeper structural injustices" because it "allows people to feel like something is being done," she concludes (O'Brien Irish Times, 7/2).
- "The Real Price of Fighting AIDS": "Almost as soon as the United Nations announced that it had developed a figure for the cost of the fight against AIDS in Africa earlier this spring, Washington started to fret" because the number was "just too big," Time senior editor Joshua Cooper Ramo writes in his column "Frequent Flyer." However, "[m]uch as donor nations might have liked to round the overall number down, the costs of AIDS defy even the fuzziest bureaucratic math," he says, calling the costs "breathtaking." Although the United States has made a pledge of $200 million to the Global AIDS and Health Fund and is considering donating $750 million next year, "no comprehensive U.S. strategy for delivering more leadership for HIV/AIDS" has emerged, he continues. "It would probably be more realistic" for the United Nations to raise less money, he writes, adding that the fund could probably initially "make do" with $5 billion a year. "But with 73,000 Africans infected every week, a truly realistic number may be much higher than we've yet imagined," he concludes (Ramo, Time, 7/9).
- "The Fight Against AIDS": In a letter to the New York Times, AMFAR co-founders Elizabeth Taylor and Mathilde Krim "commend the United Nations for raising awareness of the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic and pay tribute to the original foot soldiers" of the fight against the disease: the gay and lesbian community. "Despite official inaction, that community rose up to help its own and many others," offering education and pushing for money for research, they continue. "Thanks to gays and lesbians, we have a model of compassion and dedication to fighting the stigma that plagues people with HIV everywhere," they conclude (Taylor/Krim, New York Times, 7/3).
- " AIDS Crisis Needs More Than Money": "Fortunately, the world seems to be coming to grips with this pandemic -- at least in terms of cash and commitment," syndicated columnist William Raspberry writes. "The money is flowing already" from governments, corporations and foundations, and the pharmaceutical companies are "kicking into gear," he notes. Although this is "all good news," it "isn't enough" because "no one has yet figured out the smartest way to spend the money as it become available," he states. Officials are conflicted about how much of the resources to dedicate to prevention versus treatment and to improving health infrastructure. "[I]t does seem clear to me that our spending won't be nearly as effective as it might be unless the leaders of the most devastated countries also undertake to change the behavior that spreads HIV/AIDS," he continues. "Money is necessary, but it isn't everything. In the long term, with a behavior-spawned plague like AIDS, it may not even be the most important thing," he concludes (Raspberry, Deseret News, 7/3).
- "Africa Must Learn From Brazil's AIDS Fight": Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin suggests in a Baltimore Sun op-ed that "[i]nstead of debating for three days in New York," the United Nations special assembly should have taken place in Brazil, the "only developing nation that has found a successful formula to combat the AIDS menace." With the aid of three "key" principles, Brazil's government has halved the projected number of HIV infections, Rubin notes. The first principle is "committed political leadership from the top down," she states. The second principle is the "heavy involvement of civic and community organizations, which are essential for reaching the poor and helping them take the complicated regimen of drugs," she says, adding that those groups are aided by a Brazilian "openness" about sex that allows workers to talk frankly about HIV transmission. The third principle is access to AIDS medications. Since 1997, Brazil has provided its citizens with free anti-AIDS drugs, a strategy possible because the government produces "cheap, generic versions" of many antiretroviral medications and because Brazil ia a "rich poor country," Rubin says. In Africa, where most nations face larger numbers of HIV/AIDS cases and the health system is "sketchy," the Brazilian model "may be out of reach," she notes. But the model could be successful in Latin America, India and urban South Africa, Rubin states. "In the meantime, hard-hit African nations can adopt Brazil's first two principles of top-down, bottom-up leadership to push prevention and develop a health network. Without such leadership, no amount of cheap drugs will do any good," she concludes (Rubin, Baltimore Sun, 7/5).
- "Now, We Don't Worry Enough About HIV": "What ever happened to the great AIDS crisis in America?" Newsday columnist Joseph Dolman writes. The subject of the United States' epidemic "barely came up" at the U.N. conference last week, he notes, calling the meeting a "mixed blessing." The United States has the money for treatment and "no shortage of prevention expertise," yet while the epidemic in this country is "still going strong," many have "traded domestic craziness for yawning apathy," he states. The demographic shift of the disease away from whites and toward minorities may be one reason that AIDS patients are "more marginalized than ever," he continues. In the early 1990s, CDC researchers worried that the American epidemic would shift to a "middle-class breakout," but they were wrong, he states. "HIV likes, in particular, women and gay men, in addition to people with a history of STDs and drug injectors. And for a million complex reasons it especially likes to prey on the poor," he continues. CDC researchers have also "worried that attention at home would flag once most white Americans realized they weren't at risk for AIDS," he states, adding, "[W]ho's to say they're wrong? We're not out of the woods yet" (Dolman, Newsday, 7/5).
- Baltimore Sun: Although the U.N. session produced "few breakthroughs," it did foster a "broader understanding and deeper commitment on the part of member nations to building the health infrastructure that is the only sure means of stemming the AIDS pandemic," a Baltimore Sun editorial states. The editorial concludes, "The United States still must prove -- with more than a token donation -- its commitment to the global AIDS fund that has been established" (Baltimore Sun, 7/6).