Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Highlights Editorials, Opinion Pieces Related to XVII International AIDS Conference, Other Topics
Several newspapers have published opinion pieces this week addressing the XVII International AIDS Conference, the reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a CDC report updating HIV incidence in the U.S. and related issues. Summaries appear below.
Baltimore Sun: Baltimore health officials "monitoring the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic would be wise to become more vigilant" in addressing the issue after CDC released its report updating the number of annual new HIV infections in the U.S., a Sun editorial states. According to the editorial, Baltimore has launched several initiatives -- including rapid HIV testing in emergency departments and outreach programs that seek to reduce the risk of contracting the virus and help those newly diagnosed receive treatment -- that "appear to be working." However, the editorial states that the uncertainty regarding the scope of the epidemic "is troubling, and it suggests that eventually more may have to be done -- and probably sooner than later." The editorial concludes, "The city must be prepared for the worst even as it continues to hope for the best" (Baltimore Sun, 8/6).
Bergen Record: The CDC report is "chilling" because the nation's "attention had been largely focused on sub-Saharan Africa and other places where [HIV/AIDS] treatment is far less accessible and awareness of the risks of infection is supposedly lower," the Record editorial states. Meanwhile, "federal funding for domestic AIDS programs has stalled during the Bush presidency," the editorial adds, noting that the "Bush administration has been less focused on domestic AIDS needs, particularly regarding minorities." The editorial concludes, "The world, the United States and New Jersey cannot afford to underestimate the threat and the suffering caused by AIDS" (Bergen Record, 8/6).
Boston Globe: The federal government, through its Medicare and Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan, "needs to be a part of th[e] effort" to reduce the number of new HIV/AIDS infections, according to a Globe editorial. According to the Globe, while CDC two years ago recommended routine HIV testing, neither Medicare nor FEHBP cover the cost of routine HIV/AIDS testing. The editorial concludes, "More routine testing could bring [the rate of new infections] down by alerting those who test positive that they are infectious" (Boston Globe, 8/6).
Cox News Service/Greenville Daily Reflector: The U.S. "should divert some funding toward domestic" HIV/ADS prevention and education campaigns, "particularly those that gain traction among those most at risk of infection," a Cox/Daily Reflector editorial states. "Successful education programs and other initiatives aimed at slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS should be credited for keeping the infection rate static" in the U.S., the editorial states, adding, "But if those programs work, their expansion could help to lower the infection rate ... especially among at-risk populations" (Cox News Service/Greenville Daily Reflector, 8/6).
Newark Star-Ledger: The U.S., which has made "major economic contributions to the fight" against HIV/AIDS worldwide, must "make attacking its own AIDS problem a priority" through a "new national AIDS initiative," a Star-Ledger editorial states. However, efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the U.S. face a number of "obstacles," such as the "notion that those leading the national battle don't know what they are doing or are not telling the whole truth," the editorial states. It adds, "Suspicion and denial conspire to stop people from doing what is best for them -- getting tested and treated and stopping risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex and sharing needles for drug use or tattoos or anything" (Newark Star-Ledger, 8/6).
- George Katito, AllAfrica.com: "Clearly, achieving an AIDS-free generation in Africa will call for a substantial investment of financial, human and other resources," but "[m]ore importantly, it will require of African governments that they muster the political will to implement the governance reforms and foster the change in political culture needed to tackle the pandemic effectively," Katito, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, writes in an AllAfrica.com opinion piece. African legislatures need to boost oversight of government expenditures to "ensur[e] HIV/AIDS funding is put to its intended use," Katito writes (Katito, AllAfrica.com, 8/4).
- Craig Dodds, Cape Times: The world is "hopelessly short" of achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of universal access to antiretrovirals by 2010, Times columnist Dodds writes in an opinion piece. "Extraordinary efforts are needed to address the shortfall," Dodds writes, adding that universal access "cannot be done without an investment in the health care systems of poorer countries, particularly in health workers." He concludes that a new campaign to curb the pandemic headed by former Botswana President Festus Mogae "should be embraced" (Dodds, Cape Times, 8/5).
- Andre Picard, Globe and Mail: "There is a realization of late that, if AIDS is ever going to be stopped, ... marginalized groups" like "girls and women in countries where they have few rights; men who have sex with men where that is taboo; sex workers; intravenous drug users; [and] members of minority groups" must "be targeted for prevention and treatment efforts," columnist Picard writes in Toronto's Globe and Mail. "Yet, for all the good intentions of the world's scientists, clinicians, community workers and activists, for all the grand statements about human rights, the largest of the marginalized groups has been callously ignored: people with disabilities," he adds. Picard writes, "In most societies, the disabled are shunned, at best hidden away and pitied," adding, "There is no reason to believe that their HIV/AIDS infection rate is any less than other groups'." He concludes, "It is time for the AIDS world to open its eyes" (Picard, Globe and Mail, 8/7).
- Helen Epstein, Los Angeles Times: "You can't fight AIDS without medicine, but you also can't fight AIDS with medicine alone," Epstein, author of "The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa," writes in a Times opinion piece. According to Epstein, HIV spreads "rapidly" in Africa "not because Africans have so many sexual partners, but because African men and women are more likely than people elsewhere to have more than one long-term partner at a time." She adds that "even small reductions in the fraction of people with multiple sexual partners can have a dramatic effect on the epidemic" (Epstein, Los Angeles Times, 8/3).
- Kyung-Wha Kang, Miami Herald: "The tenaciousness of AIDS stems in part from the fact that measures to counter it underestimate and even ignore the human rights context in which it thrives," Kang, the United Nations acting high commissioner for human rights, writes in a Herald opinion piece. According to Kang, "millions of people who experience human rights violations" -- such as discrimination, gender inequality, marginalization, poverty, violence, and lack of access to education and information -- "are also more vulnerable to HIV infection and more likely to die" of an AIDS-related condition. Therefore, "any approach to HIV must also respond to the human rights issues fueling the epidemic and emanating from it," Kang writes (Kang, Miami Herald, 8/6).
- Lorraine Teel, Minneapolis Star Tribune: The U.S. needs "a unified strategy and comprehensive ongoing dialogue" to curb the epidemic in the country, Teel, executive director of the Minnesota AIDS Project, writes in a Star Tribune opinion piece. "This isn't a moral issue; this isn't a political debate: this is a public health problem," Teel writes, concluding, "Now more than ever we need to call upon all segments of the community -- from civic leaders, elected officials, faith-based institutions, schools, health care providers, social service agencies and, frankly, our neighbors. Let's all talk about AIDS and about how to stop it. United, we can achieve that goal" (Teel, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/4).
- Thompson Ayodele, New York Post: The "true obstacle" to getting HIV/AIDS treatment to people in developing countries is "local policies," including tariffs and infrastructure issues, Ayodele, executive director of Initiative for Public Policy Analysis in Nigeria, writes in a Post opinion piece. Some African countries have duties, taxes and government regulations on medicines that can "drive the costs through the roof," he writes. In addition, a lack of roads and electricity in some nations serve as obstacles to delivering medications to patients and properly storing the drugs. Ayodele concludes, "If [the XVII International AIDS Conference] is to have an impact on the growing AIDS pandemic, the participants need to get their priorities straight. Improving medical infrastructure and lowering tariffs should be their chief concern -- not weakening drug patents" (Ayodele, New York Post, 8/4).
- George Curry, Philadelphia Inquirer: "There is no question that African-Americans are disproportionately represented among the ranks of those with HIV and AIDS," Curry, a columnist for the Inquirer, writes. In the column, Curry discusses a report released by the Black AIDS Institute that "paints a portrait of what black America would look like if it were a separate country." According to Curry, the report showed that there are more blacks living with HIV in the U.S. than the total HIV-positive populations in seven of the 15 nations in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program, which provides $3 billion annually to nations most affected by the virus. Curry writes, "Some worry that not enough money is being spent at home." He says that PEPFAR spending, for example, increased by 46% in 2007 compared with a 2.5% increase for domestic HIV/AIDS spending. For 2008, global HIV/AIDS spending is expected to increase by 34%, while domestic spending will increase by 1.2%, he adds (Curry, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/7).
- Don Bruner/Jackie Dozier, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: The U.S. "is falling short on its commitment to curb HIV/AIDS," Bruner and Dozier, executive director and executive assistant and director, respectively, of the Women HIV/AIDS Initiatives at the Black Men Latino Men Health Crisis, write in a Democrat and Chronicle opinion piece, adding, "We still see huge racial and economic disparities in HIV infection rates." Bruner and Dozier write that CDC has been unable to "accurately estimate the annual new HIV infection rates," which has "exposed a fatal flaw in the CDC HIV/AIDS data collection and monitoring, funding allocation and prevention programs." The lack of accuracy means "state and federal funding for HIV prevention and AIDS services is less likely to reach populations who most need it," they write. They conclude that the "need for increased prevention services for women, especially women of color, has been clearly demonstrated and documented" (Bruner/Dozier, Democrat and Chronicle, 8/7).
- Henrietta Fore, Washington Times: With the reauthorization of PEPFAR, President Bush and U.S. lawmakers have kept the country "boldly at the forefront of efforts to reduce poverty and enhance the lives of people around the world for years to come," Fore, administrator for USAID, writes in a Times opinion piece. The U.S. is "not only investing in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis today, but we also are focusing on tomorrow by training people to manage, deliver and support the distribution of health services, which will be critical for sustained successes against infectious diseases," she continues. "Improving the health of populations and reducing the spread and impact of diseases ... result in greater productivity and economic growth, and contribute to peace and stability," Fore writes. She concludes, "We will save countless lives by expanding proven approaches and interventions until we reach all who are in need" (Fore, Washington Times, 8/5).
- Richard Elliott, Winnipeg Free Press: Ahead of the XVII International AIDS Conference, Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, suggests three areas on which Canada should focus in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He says that Canada should address issues with the Access to Medicines Regime, which aims to help developing countries obtain access to more affordable generic medications; support health services that treat drug addictions and prevent "associated harms"; and recommit to a scaling up of funding for HIV/AIDS in the country, as well as ensure that new funding supports HIV vaccine research (Elliott, Winnipeg Free Press, 8/2).
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. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.