Researchers, Officials, Actors Tell Young People How to Fight HIV/AIDS
College students and other young people can fight HIV/AIDS by speaking out about the disease and taking measures to protect themselves, a panel of researchers, health officials and celebrities said yesterday during a discussion at George Washington University. The talk, which was sponsored by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, focused on how young people can help combat AIDS both in their communities and abroad. Panelists included Scott Evertz, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; Florence Ngobeni, a South African HIV/AIDS counselor; Dr. Richard Koup, chief of the immunology laboratory at NIH's Vaccine Research Center; Dr. Allan Goldstein, chair of biochemistry and molecular biology at George Washington University; and actors Kim Webster of "West Wing" and Scott Wolf, who is best known for "Party of Five." The panelists said that university students could fight HIV/AIDS by openly discussing the disease and organizing events on campus that could benefit AIDS charities and organizations. Koup and Goldstein said that the focus of the fight against AIDS should be on a successful HIV vaccine. "Hopefully, through vaccination, a world without AIDS is possible," Koup said. Dr. Gary Simon, a GWU professor of medicine and the director of the university's HIV Clinical Trials Unit, encouraged students to become "vaccine volunteers" by either promoting the search for a vaccine or enrolling in clinical vaccine trials.
Ngobeni said that the South African government needs to do more to fight HIV/AIDS in its nation. "We need leadership," she said, adding that she would like to see the government increase AIDS funding and be more proactive about creating and implementing AIDS policies. Ngobeni also commented on the court case between the Treatment Action Campaign and the South African government in which TAC sued the government for failing to provide free nevirapine -- which can prevent vertical transmission -- to HIV-positive pregnant women in all South African public hospitals. Ngobeni said the trial is a "good thing" because the government "owes it" to South Africans to tell them "where they stand" on the issue of nevirapine and AIDS drugs. She added that people should push for the expansion of AIDS drug programs and broader access to medicines. However, she noted that there have been improvements in South African AIDS policy, citing the addition of AIDS information to school curricula. In addition, Ngobeni said that it is important to allow all children, especially those affected by AIDS, access to education and social services because children who cannot access these things "will end up destitute and prone to [HIV] infection."
Domestic and International Funding
Evertz said that young people "are being infected with HIV at unacceptable rates" and that the Bush administration wants to fight HIV/AIDS among this group. Stating that young people who believe they "have a future" are less likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV infection, Evertz said that "comprehensive" prevention programs are needed. Peer education is one method that has been shown to be effective, he said. However, Evertz said that the Bush administration wants to fight HIV/AIDS among the entire U.S. population. "We don't care if you're a man who has sex with a man. We don't care if you're an intravenous drug user. ... We're going to reach out with compassion," he said. Evertz said the administration will continue to fund CDC prevention programs and will contribute to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. "We want to remain the largest donor" to the fund, he said, adding that the administration plans to increase its donation (Meredith McGroarty, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/30). A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the panel discussion is available online.