December 12, 2011
A Malawian HIV/AIDS advocate recently visited Jackson and spoke about the importance of the U.S. remaining committed to the work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
"This is a matter of life and death," said Joyce Kamwana, who gained steady access to antiretroviral therapy through the fund in 2004, but not before she was hospitalized twice for TB.
"Since 2003, 7.7 million lives have been saved by the Global Fund," said Crickett Nicovich of RESULTS, a Washington-based nonprofit sponsoring Kamwana. "But because many countries aren't living up to their pledges to it, the Global Fund is in a financial crisis itself." The U.S. House of Representatives has proposed overall budget cuts to global health funding, which would hamper AIDS efforts, Nicovich said.
Cuts to HIV prevention efforts would resonate locally, said Linda Rigsby, an attorney with the Mississippi Center for Justice. Nine Southern states accounted for 35 percent of new U.S. HIV infections in 2009, though they held only 22 percent of the U.S. population, according to a report by the Duke Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research.
The Jackson-based HIV/AIDS support group Brave New Day's 24-hour helpline fields an average of 20 calls a month, said Maurice Brown, its operations manager. "Most people who call are recently diagnosed and are just lost."
Shame and embarrassment may prevent some people with HIV from seeking regular care, said Dr. Harold Henderson, a University of Mississippi Medical Center professor of medicine and HIV expert. "People who are poor may be reluctant to go to the doctor because they worry about paying for any medical bill."