Third Annual PEPFAR Meeting Held in Durban, South Africa
About 1,100 HIV/AIDS advocates, researchers and scientists on Monday in Durban, South Africa, gathered for the third annual President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief meeting, the Boston Globe reports. The five-day meeting will focus on promoting HIV prevention issues, including HIV testing, behavior changes and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 6/13). According to Mark Dybul, acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, although half of PEPFAR funding goes toward providing HIV/AIDS treatment, the program has been most successful at preventing new infections because of its "ABC" HIV prevention model (Quinn, Reuters Health, 6/12). The law (HR 1298) authorizing PEPFAR endorses ABC -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- and specifies that at least one-third of PEPFAR's HIV prevention funding should be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/5). Some HIV/AIDS advocates say the inclusion of faith-based organizations in delivering the ABC message over-states moral lessons at the cost of sexual health, according to Reuters Health. "ABC is bringing results," Dybul said, adding, "We don't differentiate between saving a life and saving a soul. We are trying to save as many lives as possible in as quick a time as possible." According to Dybul, ABC has helped to reduce HIV prevalence in Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe, as well as in some Caribbean countries and parts of India. "We are pleased with what has been accomplished, but we're a long way from reaching our goal yet," Dybul said. PEPFAR might exceed its $15 billion funding target by 2008, which is a reflection of the U.S.'s long-term commitment to addressing HIV/AIDS worldwide, Dybul said (Reuters Health, 6/12).
Advocates Promote Changing Men's Behavior
While some HIV/AIDS advocates say that men's behavior is a driving force in the spread of HIV and that it cannot easily be changed, several studies presented on Monday at the conference indicate the possibilities of changing men's behavior, the Globe reports. According to South Africa's Population Council, the "Men as Partners" program in Soweto, South Africa, has helped to alter men's behavior in the township. The council's study of 920 men and 1,589 women finds that about two-thirds of the men had been tested for HIV and that 84% of men and 85% of women had discussed the results with their partners. In addition, nine out of 10 men encouraged their pregnant partners to seek prenatal care, though just 54% of the men had accompanied their partners to clinics, according to the study. Another study indicates that long-distance truck drivers in Zambia increasingly are more faithful to their partners after a six-year effort to educate them about the dangers of extramarital sexual behavior. A 2000 study of 568 drivers finds that 0.3% of the truck drivers said they were faithful, compared to 63.8% of 1,002 men at the same sites who this year said they were faithful to their partners (Boston Globe, 6/13).
South African Health Minister Calls for Better Coordination
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang at the conference said funding from foreign donors should be coordinated through government structures to "achieve better outcomes," South Africa's Independent Online reports. She also called on countries to "progressively increase" their national investments in the health sector in order to sustain HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs (Independent Online, 6/13). Dybul said he "completely" agrees with the need for improved coordination of HIV/AIDS funds. "We live in a time of great hope engendered by action," Dybul said, adding, "For too long the world has expressed sympathy without action. We need to rededicate ourselves to saving lives. There can be no higher calling" (Cullinan, Mail & Guardian, 6/13).