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10 Stories to Watch in 2012, Part 1

January 3, 2012

The first of a two-part series about the stories to keep your eyes on during 2012. To read the second five stories covered in Part 2, go here.

1. The Beginning of the End of AIDS

For the first time in the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, even the president has dared to utter the words "AIDS-free generation." With vaccines and new preventive methods in R&D and clinical trials, treatment advances that are ready for rollout and a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) in place, public health officials have a tool kit with which to begin to end the pandemic. But will they actually allocate the funds to do so in this cutthroat economic climate? Let's see who steps up.

What to watch: With the nation in financial and political crisis, it's time to make lawmakers accountable for funding AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, AIDS-prevention programs, AIDS-service organizations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others.

2. AIDS 2012 Goes to Washington

The end of the travel ban set the stage for the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to take place in the U.S. for the first time in 20 years. Conference organizers expect more than 20,000 researchers, scientists, public health officials and activists from around the world to converge on Chocolate City. In a nation that has a Black president and is confronted with a disease whose American epicenter resides in Washington's Black community, Black activists from around the Diaspora will press their agenda, which they say has historically been given short shrift.

What to watch: Major scientific announcements are sure to take place. And for the first time, an official conference working group assigned to advance issues that pertain to Blacks with HIV/AIDS worldwide will consist entirely of members of the Diaspora. But will HIV-positive Black Americans show up en masse at the conference to stand up for themselves? It's time to mobilize to make it happen.

3. Fiscal and Political Headwinds for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and NHAS

2012 marks year 2 of two historical firsts: the ACA and the NHAS. While we have already seen major progress in each area, both plans face major fights. Numerous challenges to the ACA are working their way through the court system, and the CLASS program, intended to provide insurance for long-term care, has already hit a brick wall.

What to watch: The GOP will continue its attempt to repeal or defang the ACA -- activity that is likely to escalate during this election year and as plans to reduce racial health disparities are served up. The Supreme Court will decide on a case challenging the legality of the ACA's individual mandate. The future of the Ryan White Care Act remains unclear. And both programs will fight for funding to carry out their provisions. HIV/AIDS activists will have to make their voices heard.

4. Treatment as Prevention

Can an ARV taken by someone who is HIV negative reduce his or her risk of getting infected? In one of the biggest science breakthroughs of the year, research suggests yes, for heterosexuals. Domestically, treatment as prevention can help people who are in serodiscordant relationships or who don't know the HIV status of their partner but are unable to negotiate condom use (think married people whose partners may be creeping, young MSM, victims of domestic violence and sex workers).

What to watch: Some critics wonder how we can consider using AIDS drugs for prevention when there aren't enough to go around now. Will AIDS meds become designer drugs for those who can afford them? Others worry that this kind of discovery could foster sexual irresponsibility, leading to higher rates of STDs.

5. Microbicide Trials and Tribulations

After the early excitement of the CAPRISA trial, what, if anything, does the recent failure of the VOICE vaginal-microbicide trial mean? And how will it affect women's ability to prevent HIV infection? National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, M.D., says, "We need multiple, scientifically proven HIV-prevention strategies acceptable to different populations to effectively combat the spread of the virus," including microbicides.

What to watch: Researchers will attempt to discover why the trial didn't yield the expected results. But science moves forward in fits and starts, and the feds are committed. More microbicide trials are advancing through the pipeline for men (anal) and women (vaginal).

Candace Y.A. Montague is the D.C. HIV/AIDS examiner for She also writes for The Body, emPower Magazine and Capital Community News.

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This article was provided by The Black AIDS Institute. It is a part of the publication Black AIDS Weekly. Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
10 Stories to Watch in 2012, Part 2
More on HIV Treatment in the Developing World
More News on Global HIV/AIDS


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