Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Opinion Pieces in Advance of World AIDS Day
Several newspapers and news magazines recently have published opinion pieces about HIV/AIDS leading up to World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. Summaries of some of the pieces appear below.
Arizona Daily Star: HIV/AIDS is "continuing to be a pressing, global health problem with local impact," a Star editorial says. "At the local level, we can encourage the funding of research and prevention programs, and encourage the U.S. and all nations to pay their fair share," the editorial says, adding that programs that provide accurate information on HIV/AIDS prevention are "essential, especially locally" (Arizona Daily Star, 11/30).
New York Times: Jamaica took a "tentative step in the right direction" recently when two government officials called for national debate on the country's laws criminalizing gay sex, a New York Times editorial says. However, the country's "angry reaction" to the proposal indicates that the government "will have a difficult time weaning the country away from the anti-gay attitudes that are pervasive throughout the society," according to the editorial. Officials will have to "redouble [their] efforts to stem the tide of an [HIV/AIDS] epidemic that is clearly getting worse," the editorial says, adding, "For starters, this will mean expanding efforts to reach same-sex partners who are justifiably terrified of seeking medical help" (New York Times, 11/30).
New York Times: "[M]ore needs to be done" to improve injection safety in developing countries to help prevent the spread of bloodborne diseases, including HIV, a Times editorial says. The "most direct course is to ban reusable needles," the editorial says, adding that "nothing is ever simple in places where health care is disorganized and threadbare." The Safe Injection Global Network, supported in part by the World Health Organization, is working to develop educational programs for health care workers in developing countries, but efforts need to be increased "particularly since such a small amount of money can save so many lives," the Times concludes (New York Times, 11/26).
- Tennessean: Members of Congress who "continue to bury their heads in the sand about the efficacy of condom use and sex education in preventing the spread" of HIV should look at decreasing prevalence rates "in many countries once overrun by the epidemic," a Tennessean editorial says. According to a UNAIDS and World Health Organization report released last week, promotion of safer sexual practices and condom use have improved efforts to fight the disease in Kenya, Zimbabwe and some Caribbean countries, the Tennessean says. "Wasted money is one thing, but wasted lives are another," the editorial says, concluding, "[O]penness and honesty are proving the best weapons in the fight against" HIV/AIDS (Tennessean, 11/29).
- Thomas Coates, Los Angeles Times: "Let me encourage you" to make "vigorous and energetic efforts against HIV a hallmark of your tenures" and "counteract what is the world's most lethal epidemic in centuries," Thomas Coates, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles and the associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute, writes in a Times letter to President Bush and South African President Thabo Mbeki. Coates recommends that Bush and Mbeki make young women a "particular focus of [their] efforts" to fight HIV/AIDS; establish "specific HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention services for the poor"; seek "comprehensive sex education at all levels of the school and health systems"; "[e]mphasize the link between drugs and alcohol and unsafe sex"; urge businesses to "destigmatize HIV in the workplace and offer benefits that cover HIV treatment for patients and families"; and "get tested -- publicly." Coates says, "[N]ow is the time to consider what you together can accomplish in the battle against this disease," adding, "If the two of you stand as one and declare your commitment to the strategies I've listed, you would capture the imagination -- and the will -- of the whole world" (Coates, Los Angeles Times, 11/30).
- Robert Gallo, Newsweek: "[T]he very therapeutic advances that have converted HIV infection from a near certain and agonizing death to a chronic, treatable disease have once again lulled society into complacency about the risks and threatened support for basic research and prevention," Gallo, co-discoverer of HIV and director of the Maryland-based Institute of Human Virology, writes in a Newsweek opinion piece. Initiatives to provide all HIV-positive people access to treatment "must be encouraged at all costs" and vaccine research must be continued because "[t]o give up in the face of a scourge that claims 10 new infections every minute is to threaten the stability of nations," Gallo writes (Gallo, Newsweek, 11/28).
- Mark Cloutier, San Francisco Chronicle: The "growing tragedy" of the HIV/AIDS epidemic's "devastating" impact on blacks has been "woefully neglected" by public health officials and some AIDS organizations and needs to be specifically addressed nationwide, Cloutier, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and president of the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. Programs tailored to black men who have sex with men, as well as some that address HIV/AIDS-related stigma, homophobia, racism, poverty and lack of access to health care need to be implemented, Cloutier writes, adding, "[S]cience and medicine are only as effective as our commitment to ensuring access to health and human services for those who need them most" (Cloutier, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/28).
- Jay Levy, San Francisco Chronicle: The "[p]riorities" of governments, not-for-profit organizations and private donors need to be "reordered" to bring HIV vaccine and immune response therapy research from "a very low level" to "the forefront" of programs to fight the pandemic, Levy, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco and director of the Laboratory of Tumor and AIDS Virus Research, writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. Long-term survivors of HIV infection "have taught us that the immune system holds the secret" to effective therapies and possibly a vaccine, according to Levy. A successful HIV vaccine might not "completely" prevent transmission of the virus, but "would protect the population from infection and limit the disease-causing effects in an immunized but infected person," Levy says (Levy, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/28).
- Sam Ho/Jury Candelario, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Only a united front will win" the fight against HIV/AIDS, which has "eluded 25 years of advances in medical treatment and the growth of prevention and advocacy groups dedicated to [its] eradication," Ho, chief medical officer at PacifiCare, and Candelario, executive director of the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team in Los Angeles, write in a Sun-Sentinel opinion piece. Advocacy groups that address the needs of communities most affected by the disease, churches that have recently "joined the fight" and become information resources for their communities, and health plans that help HIV-positive people identify a specialist and get in touch with case managers will be "key" in "making progress ... [to] turn the tide against this still deadly disease," the authors say (Ho/Candelario, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 11/28).
- Richard Holbrooke, Washington Post: "We are not winning the war on AIDS, and our current strategies are not working," especially when it comes to testing and detection, Holbrooke, who is president of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, writes in Post opinion piece. Although HIV testing has been primarily voluntary because of "legitimate concerns about confidentiality and ... stigmatization," strategies involving routine testing unless patients "opt-out" have had "immediate results" in Botswana, Malawi and Lesotho, Holbrooke writes. "Widespread testing is not a single-bullet solution -- there is none -- but without knowing who is HIV-positive and who is not, there is no chance we can win this war," he concludes (Holbrooke, Washington Post, 11/29).