Global Health Advocates Warn Against Complacency in Fighting HIV/AIDS Pandemic Ahead of World AIDS Day
Global health advocates on Friday warned against complacency in fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic ahead of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. "We must not be complacent about the AIDS crisis," Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said, adding, "There is still a huge unmet need for basic HIV/AIDS services, including for orphaned children," he said.
James Shelton of USAID in a commentary appearing on Saturday in the Lancet writes that despite progress in antiretroviral distribution, the number of new HIV cases in developing countries "continues to dwarf the numbers" of people who start antiretroviral therapy, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The battle against HIV/AIDS "continues to be undermined by a global resource gap," Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, said. According to the United Nations, there is an $8 billion shortfall in resources to address HIV/AIDS, including basic HIV prevention, treatment and care for AIDS orphans (Hood, AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/30).
President Bush To Meet With Faith-Based Groups To Discuss PEPFAR
In related news, President Bush on Friday in Mount Airy, Md., is scheduled to meet with faith-based HIV/AIDS advocacy groups to discuss the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in advance of World AIDS Day, White House spokesperson Alex Conant said. The administration chose Calvary United Methodist Church to host the event because of its support for Children of Zion Village, a group home and school in Namibia for AIDS orphans, Conant said. The orphanage is located in northeastern Namibia and was opened in 2003 by missionaries. According to Conant, Children of Zion does not receive money from the U.S. or Namibian governments (AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/28).
Global AIDS Coordinator Dybul Discusses PEPFAR Progress
Ambassador Mark Dybul, the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator who administers PEPFAR, on Thursday in Jersey City, N.J., met with health officials to discuss PEPFAR in observance of World AIDS Day, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. "We have to be optimistic ... We are in this for the long haul," Dybul said while speaking to about 100 HIV/AIDS experts from around the world at Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. Dybul said he is beginning to see statistical data in many developing countries that indicates PEPFAR efforts are slowing the spread of HIV. Themba Moeti, director of the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships in Botswana, said that there is "some evidence now the epidemic has peaked and is in decline" in the country. Dybul said that he expects Congress to maintain its support for long-term global HIV/AIDS programs, adding that PEPFAR has "bipartisan support" and that he expects the program "to continue" (MacPherson, Newark Star-Ledger, 11/29).
HIV/AIDS Advocates Call for Revisions to PEPFAR
In related news, some HIV/AIDS experts and advocates on Thursday ahead of World AIDS Day called for revisions to PEPFAR and a more comprehensive approach to fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, CQ HealthBeat reports. "The problem with HIV is this is a very deep bucket," J.P. Heath -- co-founder of the African Network of Religious Leaders Living With or Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS -- said, adding that it is "going to take an even bigger response than what we currently see pledged. We are going to have to do so much more." House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) said that PEPFAR's reauthorization must represent a shift from emergency efforts to a sustainable strategy to curbing HIV/AIDS.
Experts also "voiced concern" with PEPFAR's abstinence spending requirements, CQ HealthBeat reports (Gensheimer, CQ HealthBeat, 11/29). By law, at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR must be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/22). The "challenge" with the ABC approach -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- "to HIV prevention is that the only thing we're talking about is sex," Heath said, adding that HIV is a "virus, not a moral condition. So when we deal with HIV, we have to deal with it holistically, not just focusing on one aspect of prevention" (CQ HealthBeat, 11/29).
Pope Benedict Calls for Increased Efforts To Combat HIV/AIDS Pandemic
Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday ahead of World AIDS Day called for increased efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and fight the stigma associated with the disease, the AP/Springfield News-Leader reports. "I am asking all people of goodwill to multiply efforts to stop the spread of the HIV virus, to oppose the scorn that often strikes those affected and to take care of the sick, especially the children," Benedict said to his weekly public audience at the Vatican. He added, "I am spiritually close to those who suffer as a result of this terrible illness as well as to their families, in particularly those stuck by the loss of a close relative. I assure my prayers for all" (AP/Springfield News-Leader, 11/28). Benedict also said that more efforts are needed to "combat the disdain with which those who are affected are often treated" (Reuters, 11/28).
Several groups released studies and launched initiatives to mark World AIDS Day. Summaries appear below.
CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: A program supported by CDC provided HIV tests to about 24,000 people at high-risk of the virus who otherwise might not have been tested, Reuters reports. The program, which was funded by CDC from 2004 to 2006, was run in Boston; Detroit; Los Angeles; Kansas City, Mo.; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C. It aimed to encourage injection drug users and men who have sex with men, as well as other high-risk groups, to receive HIV tests rather than waiting for them to come in for testing, according to Reuters (Dunham, Reuters, 11/29).
- KNOWIT: The Kaiser Family Foundation is working with HHS through CDC and the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS Policy to help people connect with HIV testing locations through a new text messaging service. Mobile phone users can send a text message with their zip code to "KNOWIT," or 566948, and receive a message back, within seconds, with information on nearby testing sites (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 11/30).
National Institute on Drug Abuse: NIH's NIDA has launched a nationwide public service campaign that aims to educate Hispanic teenagers about the connection between noninjection drug use and HIV. The campaign includes a television advertisement that blends English and Spanish; an Internet-based series that will soon be launched on hiv.drugabuse.gov; transit and print ads; and community events and partnerships (NIH release, 11/26).
World Food Programme: WFP on Wednesday released a report that found reducing hunger in developing countries is a key component in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, the AP/Springfield News-Leader reports. According to the report, hunger and disease are connected because malnourished people are more likely to contract infectious diseases, which reduce their ability to provide food for themselves and their families (AP/Springfield News-Leader, 11/28).
World Vision: The group released a survey on Thursday that found one-third of people in seven wealthy countries -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Untied Kingdom and the U.S. -- said they know little or nothing about the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The survey also found that one-fourth of respondents said they believe that global HIV/AIDS is "greatly exaggerated." According to the survey, 80% of participants said that their governments should do more to help AIDS orphans worldwide, and 44% said that they are willing to pay increased taxes to fund prevention, research, treatment and care (World Vision release, 11/29).
Several broadcast programs reported or are scheduled to on Worlds AIDS Day. Summaries appear below.
African Broadcast Media Partnership Against HIV/AIDS: ABMP's first authentic African reality show -- Imagine Afrika -- follows young Africans competing in challenges that address some of the most intractable problems facing local communities, including HIV/AIDS, food security, housing and sanitation (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 11/30).
- "Ask the White House": Dybul will discuss World AIDS Day Friday at 2:00 p.m. in an "Ask the White House" online chat ("Ask the White House" Web site, 11/30). Questions can be submitted online. A transcript will be available online after the chat.
BET: As part of BET and the Kaiser Family Foundation's Rap-It-Up partnership, BET will air a special episode of the music countdown show 106 & Park with HIV-related discussions and celebrity guests (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 11/30).
Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS: CBMP's public information campaign, LIVE UP, will debut a new half-hour television magazine program in early December -- LIVE UP: The Show (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 11/30).
- CNN's "Larry King Live": The program on Tuesday included a discussion with actor Sharon Stone, a spokesperson for amfAR: the Foundation for AIDS Research, and designer Kenneth Cole about World AIDS Day and advocacy (King, "Larry King Live," CNN, 11/27). A transcript of the complete program is available online.
MTV: MTV and Kaiser's World AIDS Day efforts will include a Dec. 1 show with Ludacris, Peter Gabriel, Razorlight, Annie Lennox and more than 40 leading South African musicians at a Nelson Mandela-led event to raise awareness and funds to help eradicate HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Family Foundation release, 11/30)
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The program on Friday included a discussion with Dybul (Montagne, "Morning Edition," NPR, 11/30). Audio of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "Tell Me More": The program on Thursday included a discussion with Raphaele Dambo, a program officer at the Caribbean Coalition of National AIDS Program Coordinators, about World AIDS Day and the number of HIV infections in the Caribbean (Martin, "Tell Me More," NPR, 11/29). Audio of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "The Bryant Park Project": The program on Friday included a discussion with Regan Hoffman, editor in chief of Poz magazine, about living with HIV ("The Bryant Park Project," NPR, 11/30). Audio of the segment is available online.
- PRI's "The World": The program on Thursday reported on care for AIDS orphans in South Africa. The segment includes comments from the director of Capetown Child Welfare and a nurse and a manager at a privately run transition home for AIDS orphans outside of Capetown (Metcalfe, "The World," PRI, 11/29). Audio of the segment is available online.
Additional Kaiser World AIDS Day resources 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.