Journalist, UNAIDS Official Discuss New HIV/AIDS Statistics on ‘NewsHour’
The "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" last night hosted a discussion with Dr. Desmond Johns, a South African who is head of the UNAIDS office in New York City, and Newsday medical correspondent Laurie Garrett on the newly released UNAIDS global HIV/AIDS statistics that show that the number of HIV cases continues to rise worldwide. Johns said that the increasing numbers, which UNAIDS estimates are "probably an underestimate by three- to five-fold," can be attributed to intravenous drug use, unprotected sex, migrating populations, poverty, gender inequality and tainted blood transfusions in China. Garrett added, "I think when you combine sex, death and narcotics, you hit every taboo imaginable, and everybody runs for cover and doesn't want to talk about [AIDS]." She said that the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "shifted the entire global radar screen" away from AIDS, adding that Congress responded "by saying, well, we had committed a hefty $750 million to the global fund for AIDS, but now we need to shift our attention to bioterrorism and we're going to lower our commitment to about $120 million." Garrett noted that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has "been deeply controversial" and is "still mired in some real difficulties," as AIDS activists are pressuring the United Nations and the World Bank to have the fund active by early next year. However, only Italy has deposited money with the World Bank, Garrett said. Johns said that the report shows that "we need to bear in mind that this is a global epidemic of enormous proportions. And it's going to require a response on the same scale" (Ifill, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 12/3). A full transcript and audio archive of the discussion are available online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.