Battle Against HIV/AIDS Not Over; Improved Prevention, Treatment, Health Systems Needed, Clinton Says at AIDS Conference
Former President Clinton at a session during the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City on Monday said that the fight against HIV/AIDS is far from over and called for improved health systems, prevention and treatment worldwide, the Wall Street Journal reports (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 8/5). "AIDS is a very big dragon," he said, adding, "The mythological dragon was slain by Saint George, the original knight in shining armor, but this dragon must be slain by millions and millions of foot soldiers."
According to Clinton, increasing food and oil prices, as well as the mortgage crisis, have further compounded the lives of HIV-positive people. Clinton also said that there is no "silver bullet" to eradicate HIV/AIDS worldwide. "We know there is so much yet to be done: to expand prevention, treatment and care, to strengthen undeveloped health systems," he said (Nicholson, AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/4).
Clinton said the U.S. and other nations should reform their health systems to reach the groups at highest risk for HIV/AIDS, which have been neglected over the past 25 years (Pettypiece, Bloomberg, 8/4). He called for a 50% increase in funding to reduce the price of antiretrovirals and keep pace with expanding antiretroviral programs (BBC News, 8/5). Clinton also said that health clinics should routinely test for HIV, particularly in developing countries, where 80% of people living with the virus are unaware of their status.
Clinton said that the U.S. has failed to prevent the spread of HIV among blacks. He added that 30% of infants born to HIV-positive women in Africa contract the virus, although drugs can reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission to less than 2%. He said that the Clinton Foundation will work to reduce such rates (Bloomberg, 8/4).
Clinton also cited some of the successes of his foundation, including reducing the price of some pediatric antiretrovirals from $600 annually to $60 annually in the previous three years. He also discussed the possibility of using pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV transmission until a vaccine is developed, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 8/5).
Clinton during the session praised the passage of legislation to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President Bush signed into law last week. "This is a stunning development for which we should all be grateful," he said. Clinton also lauded United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Mexican President Felipe Calderon for speaking out against discrimination during the conference (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/4).
He also commended Mexico for passing legislation to increase access to health care, adding that such legislation can help reduce new HIV cases (Bloomberg, 8/4). He also praised Mexico's policy of universal access to antiretroviral drugs for all people who need them and added that he hopes the Bush administration "will follow" and provide universal access to antiretrovirals in the U.S.
In addition, Clinton said that a recently released CDC study about annual new HIV infections in the U.S. highlights the need for increased attention to the virus in the country, particularly among blacks (Connolly, Washington Post, 8/5). The study "should be a wake-up call" for U.S. citizens "that even as we keep working globally we need to do much more to fight AIDS at home, and I intend to do so with my foundation" (Bloomberg, 8/4).
In a Washington Post interview after the speech, Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, , "I have been extremely disappointed with the Clinton Foundation, especially with it headquartered in Harlem of all places, that it has been silent" on the issue of blacks and HIV/AIDS. He said that HIV/AIDS is a "direct attack on black America." Wilson said, "I'm very grateful, and it is appropriate that President Clinton is committed to taking this on" (Washington Post, 8/5).
The recent CDC study found that 45% of new infections in the U.S. occur among non-Hispanic blacks (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/4).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A webcast of Clinton's session is available online. A webcast of the opening ceremony during which Ban and Calderon spoke also is available online. A webcast of a press conference featuring Phill Wilson on AIDS in black America is available online.
NPR's "Tell Me More" on Monday reported on the CDC study. The segment includes comments from Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention (Martin , "Tell Me More," NPR, 8/4). The program on Monday also examined the issue of HIV/AIDS and blacks. The segment includes comments from Wilson (Martin , "Tell Me More," NPR, 8/4).