Global Climate Change To Increase Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS of People in Developing Countries, Panel Says
Climate change is the newest threat to the increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide, panelists said Wednesday at an HIV forum at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, the AAP/Age reports (McLean, AAP/Age, 4/30).
The forum, titled "A Future Free of HIV," was moderated by Justice of the High Court Michael Kirby and included several HIV/AIDS researchers, according to a UNSW release. Topics covered at the forum included the social and human rights implications of HIV, the latest scientific perspectives on the disease, and the social and behavioral aspects of the epidemic (UNSW release, 4/30).
Speaking at the forum, Daniel Tarantola, a professor of health and human rights at UNSW, said that global warming will indirectly increase vulnerability to HIV infection for people living in developing countries. Tarantola said, "Climate change will trigger a chain of events which is likely to increase the stress on society and result in higher vulnerability to diseases, including HIV."
David Cooper, director of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at UNSW, said that environmental change would have a negative impact on people living with HIV/AIDS. "Climate change will lead to food scarcity and poorer nutrition, putting people with perilous immune systems at more risk of dying of [AIDS-related illnesses], as well as contracting and transmitting new and unusual infections," Cooper said.
Cooper said that with 16,000 new HIV cases daily and the failure of research to produce a vaccine or cure, the outlook for fighting the pandemic was "pretty grim." He said, "I don't think we have any idea of how to harness a vaccine for this, and we need a strong basic science breakthrough to get anywhere with it."
Cooper said that it is important to increase preventive measures that work, including condoms and male circumcision, as well as work towards the development of microbicide gels and drugs to block HIV infection (AAP/Age, 4/30). "Science has achieved great strides towards shaping a more effective response to HIV," but "research has not succeeded in producing the hoped for 'magic bullets' of either a cure or a vaccine," Cooper said, adding, "We need to escalate our research efforts while sustaining and expanding what we know works: good prevention and access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy and integrated care" (UNSW release, 4/30).