U.S. Ambassadors Voice Concerns About HIV/AIDS Programs at Recent PEPFAR Meeting
At the third annual President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief meeting last week in Durban, South Africa, PEPFAR received "some unusual criticism -- from people running the programs," the Boston Globe reports (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 6/18). About 1,100 HIV/AIDS advocates, researchers and scientists gathered last week for the five-day conference, which focused on promoting HIV prevention issues including HIV testing, behavior changes and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14). Several U.S. ambassadors during the meeting reported on the successes and challenges of HIV treatment and prevention programs in their respective nations. Pamela Bridgewater, U.S. ambassador to Ghana, highlighted the challenges of addressing HIV prevention among men who have sex with men in Ghana. MSM are "stigmatized, even by health workers," Bridgewater said, adding, "Many of these men are married and could be a bridge to spreading HIV to the general population." According to Bridgewater, very few HIV prevention programs in the country are dedicated to helping curb the spread of the virus among MSM. To address this, the embassy recently started a program to educate health workers about the needs of MSM, the Globe reports. Steven Browning, U.S. ambassador to Uganda, highlighted the need for better family planning programs for HIV-positive women. Some women as a "consequence of taking [antiretroviral drugs] ... become fertile again," the Globe reports. A study in Uganda finds that 90% of HIV-positive pregnant women did not intend to have another child. According to Browning, programs to encourage HIV-positive women to use contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancies must be developed. U.S. ambassador to Lesotho, June Carter Perry, expressed concerns about high standards required for local groups bidding on contracts. In its three years, PEPFAR has provided antiretrovirals for 560,000 people; HIV testing and counseling to 13.6 million people; treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV to four million women; and care for three million AIDS orphans and other HIV-positive people, the Globe reports. According to the Globe, these programs are lauded "by many [HIV/AIDS] specialists to be among the best" in developing nations. "If you can't improve on what you've done, you can't save as many lives," acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul said. According to Dybul, one reason for the meeting was to hear criticism and concerns and correct any problems (Boston Globe, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.