Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Editorials, Opinion Pieces Related to AIDS Conference
Several newspapers have published editorials and opinion pieces in observance of the XVI International AIDS Conference, which is being held from Aug. 13 through Aug. 18 in Toronto. Summaries appear below.
- Janet Bagnall, Montreal Gazette: HIV/AIDS has "slipped off the radar in North America" since the first international HIV/AIDS conference in 1989, and the disease "seems to have become a Third World illness," Gazette columnist Bagnall writes in an opinion piece. Although some potential participants have decided not to attend the conferences over concerns that "the science is not worth the trip," the conferences raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, and that "alone makes [them] worthwhile," Bagnall writes (Bagnall, Montreal Gazette, 8/11).
Toronto Star: The fight against HIV/AIDS requires a focus on "poverty, hunger, gender and HIV/AIDS together, not as separate, unrelated entities," according to a Star editorial. In addition, "to have a truly effective program, all countries ... must live up to their existing commitments to fund research and treatment of AIDS," the editorial states (Toronto Star, 8/13).
- Toronto Sun: The discovery of an "alleged terrorist plot" by British authorities in the days prior to the international HIV/AIDS conference must not "push HIV/AIDS from the spotlight," an editorial in the Sun says. "It's time for more action" on a number of issues related to HIV/AIDS -- "and less petty politics" -- because, "while AIDS may be the killer among us, indifference is the plague," according to the editorial (Toronto Sun, 8/13).
- James Morris, Ottawa Citizen: "Funding antiretrovirals with no thought to food and nutrition is a little like paying a fortune to fix a car but not having money to pay for gas," Morris -- executive director of the World Food Programme and special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Southern Africa -- writes in a Citizen opinion piece. According to Morris, malnutrition reduces the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs and also hinders the immune system. "Political leaders are gradually becoming more aware of the need for food and nutritional support in the 'essential package of care' for people affected by HIV....Now it is time to put this into practice," Morris says (Morris, Ottawa Citizen, 8/13).
Christian Science Monitor: Although religious groups can be a "key resource" in the fight against the "scourge" of HIV/AIDS, such groups that "accept government or other outside funding need to be especially mindful that in such circumstances their mission is healing, not proselytizing," a Monitor editorial says. According to the editorial, some churches are working to fight HIV/AIDS worldwide by caring for children affected by HIV/AIDS and advocating for affected communities. "Religions around the world have unique spiritual and temporal resources to offer in helping to heal the AIDS crisis," the editorial concludes (Christian Science Monitor, 8/11).
- Thomas Rosica, Globe and Mail: "The Catholic Church has spoken consistently, clearly and powerfully about HIV/AIDS," Rosica, CEO of the Canada's Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, writes in an opinion piece in Toronto's Globe and Mail. However, he continues, the "role of the Church in the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been met with vehement debate and disagreement" in the areas of human sexuality, strategies for prevention and social justice. The threat "does not change the Church's morality," Rosica says, adding that if the Church and its leaders "offer compassion and consolation without considering the structures of sin, or preach morality and prevention without combating poverty, this is a tantamount to scorning the tradition of the Church and denying its mission" (Rosica, Globe and Mail, 8/12).
- Joanne Csete, Ottawa Citizen: African countries "must not be cowed by U.S. policies and ideology or by the knee-jerk response to demonize drug users," Csete, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, writes in a Citizen opinion piece. Instead, African countries should be open to evidence-based programs and work with donors to support "proven, cost-effective methods" of preventing HIV transmission, such as needle-exchange programs for injection drug users, Csete says. "It will take courageous political leadership to overcome the social discrimination against people who use drugs and the popular tendency to treat drug users as criminals or as throw-away people," Csete writes (Csete, Ottawa Citizen, 8/13).
- Louis Freedberg, San Francisco Chronicle: South African satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys, who uses humor through one-man shows to address HIV/AIDS, "continues to break the barriers of silence, stigma and shame" at the AIDS conference, columnist Freedberg writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. Humor, "perhaps even more than a straight medical or clinical approach," is what will be required to bring an end to the pandemic, Freedberg writes (Freedberg, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/14).
- David Holtgrave, Baltimore Sun: Although there have been "tremendous strides" in HIV prevention and treatment, the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic is "far worse than many people realize," Holtgrave -- professor and chair of the department of health, behavior and society at the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health -- writes in a Sun opinion piece. According to Holtgrave, what is "tragic is that as a nation we have good information about what types of treatment and prevention programs work, but we just don't deliver those services at the scale needed to make a larger difference in the epidemic." Holtgrave recommends "[i]ntensifying" efforts in several areas -- including building awareness of HIV/AIDS, reducing stigma, expanding counseling and testing services, providing prevention services to individuals engaged in high-risk behaviors, ensuring access to recommended treatment for all HIV-positive people, and addressing social inequities in HIV transmission (Holtgrave, Baltimore Sun, 8/13).
- Scott Evertz and Sandra Thurman, Toronto Star: The U.S. "isn't getting the job done on AIDS," and the country will be under the "microscope" at the AIDS conference, Evertz and Thurman -- who served as directors of the Office of National AIDS Policy under President Bush and former President Clinton, respectively -- write in a Star opinion piece. U.S. policy on HIV/AIDS has "shifted from a truly comprehensive" one that included abstinence, being faithful and using condoms to "an ideologically driven, abstinence-until-marriage focus that places many at risk of needlessly contracting HIV," the authors write. They add that the U.S. policy "doesn't make sense, given that teens and young adults now account for more than half of all new HIV infections and more than one-third of people living with AIDS." Young people need "education and tools to minimize their risk, while society labors to eliminate the root causes that landed them in these untenable positions in the first place," Evertz and Thurman write (Evertz/Thurman, Toronto Star, 8/14).
- Graca Machel and Hilde Johnson, Ottawa Citizen: "Even a partially effective microbicide could prevent millions of infections and save the lives of women, men and children," Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development in Mozambique, and Johnson, former Norwegian Minister of International Development, write in an Ottawa Citizen opinion piece. Machel and Johnson -- members of the Women's Leadership Network for Microbicides -- say that governments should "dramatically scale up microbicide development funding from $160 million in 2005 to $280 million per year until microbicides are licensed." They also call on pharmaceutical companies, government leaders and women to advocate for microbicide development (Machel/Johnson, Ottawa Citizen, 8/13).
- L. Camille Massey and Sushma Kapoor, Ottawa Citizen: Although female condoms, cervical barriers and microbicides often are identified with women's health, "AIDS vaccines are rarely viewed as tools that women could use to protect themselves," Massey, a human rights lawyer and senior adviser at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and Kapoor, gender adviser for IAVI in India, write in a Citizen opinion piece. According to Massey and Kapoor, an effective AIDS vaccine could provide women with long-term protection with or without the cooperation and consent of their sexual partners, and the recently approved human papillomavirus vaccine might provide lessons in administering a vaccine targeted at adults and adolescents. "Only by collective activism in recognizing the AIDS vaccine as an important health tool for women and girls can we hope to see the end of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the disproportionate toll it is taking on women worldwide," Massey and Kapoor conclude (Massey/Kapoor, Ottawa Citizen, 8/13).
- Joe Amon, Toronto Star: An Aug. 8 Star editorial about educating women and protecting their rights to combat HIV/AIDS "correctly identifies the empowerment of women as the key to fighting the epidemic but says little about why women are vulnerable or how to empower them," Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS program at Human Rights Watch, says in a Star letter to the editor. "In South Africa, one in four girls report that their first sexual experience is one of rape or coerced sex," he notes, adding, "Empowering women means combating human rights abuses." Amon concludes that governments "must commit to addressing discrimination, gender-based violence and property rights" (Amon, Toronto Star, 8/11).
- Carol Goar, Toronto Star: Stephen Lewis, U.N. envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, believes that the heroes of the AIDS conference are not the philanthropists or scientists, but rather the "grandmothers who have nursed and buried their children, then found the strength to become parents for their grandchildren, breadwinners for their extended families and community leaders," columnist Goar says in a Star opinion piece. The Stephen Lewis Foundation brought 100 of these women to Toronto for the conference, creating the first Grandmother's Gathering, Goar notes (Goar, Toronto Star, 8/14).
- Mary Robinson, Guardian: The establishment of a "foothold with the youngest generation" is necessary to ensure an "AIDS-free generation by 2015," Robinson, executive director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, writes in an opinion piece in London's Guardian, adding, "We have the tools to make prevention a reality; we just need the will." According to Robinson, "comprehensive programs" -- such as "peer-led programs, school interventions and adolescent-friendly health services" -- are needed to address the issue (Robinson, Guardian, 8/12).
- Nigel Fisher, Toronto Star: The global community "must put children at the center of the agenda" to effectively halt and reverse the spread of HIV, Fisher, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada, writes in a Star opinion piece. The general public in Canada does not identify HIV/AIDS as a children's issue, although children in developing nations "bear the brunt" of the pandemic, Fisher says. The international community must invest in preventing mother-to-child transmission, providing pediatric treatment, preventing HIV transmission among children, and protecting and supporting children affected by HIV/AIDS, Fisher writes (Fisher, Toronto Star, 8/14).