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HIV/AIDS News Digest: June 14, 2011

June 15, 2011

Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:

The Normal Heart and The Book of Mormon Win Big at the 2011 Tony Awards (From The New York Times)

On Sunday, Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart won three Tony Awards including "Best Revival of a Play" at the 2011 Tony Awards. Kramer's semi-autobiographical 1985 off-Broadway play about the AIDS epidemic in New York made its Broadway debut in May.

In accepting the award, Larry Kramer said: "I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died. Learn from it, and carry on the fight. Let them know that we are a very special people, an exceptional people. And that our day will come."

Actors Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey also won Tonys for their supporting roles in the play. In accepting her award for "Best Actress in a Feature Role," Barkin recognized the thirtieth anniversary of HIV/AIDS in her acceptance speech. She said: "Thirty years ago this week the world was attacked by a virus, and Larry Kramer went to war. He picked up his most powerful weapon, his pen, and he wrote a play, The Normal Heart. He lit a fire. One person can make a difference, one person can change the world."

The Book of Mormon, the crass and somewhat offensive musical about Uganda's AIDS crisis, had the most nominations -- and took home nine Tonys, including "Best Musical" and "Best Featured Actress in a Musical."

The Root Tackles the HIV/AIDS Budget Crisis (From The Root)

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of AIDS, The Root's Cynthia Gordy delved into the politics of HIV/AIDS funding, the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs)] crisis and the resistance that some African-American churches have when it comes to HIV/AIDS. About ADAP, Gordy wrote:

Facing budget shortfalls, 17 states have scaled back ADAPs, which help about 174,000 poor or uninsured patients pay for expensive HIV medication. Through lowered income-eligibility thresholds or direct funding cuts, HIV-positive people have been thrown off insurance rolls, and a record high of 8,111 are on waiting lists for antiretrovirals and other drugs. The actual need is likely greater, since some states have eliminated waiting lists altogether.

The federal government pays for most of ADAP funding, supplemented by states. But the contributions have not kept pace with a demand that has only increased with rising unemployment as more Americans lose their health insurance. AIDS activists say that while they understand the challenge of both federal and state budget constraints, medication that thousands depend on to stay alive is a terrible place to look for savings.

"The budget is not just a fiscal document but a moral document," Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church and chair of the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS of Metro Atlanta, told The Root. "It is a statement about what we the people view as important, and who we think is unimportant. Too often our deficits are balanced on the backs of those who can least afford it."

UN Makes Bold New HIV/AIDS Goals for 2020 (From The Guardian)

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon made a strong statement at the UN AIDS Summit last week about his 2020 goals. He told the crowd at a meeting on the first day of the summit, "Zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths."

The three-day summit, attended by heads of state, civil society groups, HIV/AIDS organizations and activists from around the world, dealt with a range of current topics, from the 30th anniversary of AIDS to increasing access to treatment. The summit ended with the adoption of a declaration to, by 2015, double the number of people on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to 15 million, end mother-to-child transmission of HIV, halve tuberculosis-related deaths in people living with HIV, and increase preventive measures for the "most vulnerable populations."

Sounds great, but the real question remains: Who is footing the bill and what is going to be done differently to ensure that this all really happens?

Meanwhile, not everyone was impressed with these meetings. Last week, we reported that Serra Sipple, the President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, writes that this meeting got off to a bad start when some delegations began working to block all references to women's rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services from the final outcome document.

Other HIV/AIDS Articles in the Media

Lawyer Claims Florida Man Charged With Criminal Transmission Is HIV Negative (From The Florida Independent)

Premature Aging an Issue for People Living With HIV/AIDS (From The Associated Press)

Op-Ed: Why Won't the Pope Let Women Protect Themselves From HIV? (From The Guardian)

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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