Commentary & Opinion
Public Health Leaders Should Use Global AIDS Initiative Funds to Curb Health Care Transmission of HIV, Sen. Sessions Says
September 22, 2003
Public health leaders should use the opportunity of "an unprecedented commitment" to fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the part of the Bush administration and Congress to "mitigate the health care transmission aspect" of the epidemic, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) writes in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post. Sessions says that "a spokesman for the World Health Organization" in a Sept. 3 letter to the Post editor "was reluctant to address the extent of the spread of HIV in Africa through unsafe medical practices" (Sessions, Washington Post, 9/19). Paulo Teixeira, WHO HIV/AIDS program director, and Marika Fahlen, director of social mobilization and information for UNAIDS, wrote in their letter that unsafe sex "continues to be the predominant mode of HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa" and should therefore continue to be the primary focus of HIV prevention programs. Teixeira and Fahlen were writing in response to an Aug. 21 Post opinion piece by Holly Burkhalter and Eric Friedman of Physicians for Human Rights' Health Action AIDS Campaign that called for a shift in the focus of HIV prevention programs from safe sex programs to the prevention of unsafe medical practices. Although Burkhalter and Friedman "rightly" point out the need to address unsafe health care procedures as part of a "combination of prevention measures," such procedures account for only 10% of new HIV infections, Teixeira and Fahlen said. UNAIDS and WHO recognize that a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention is needed, including programs that target unsafe sex, mother-to-child HIV transmission, unsafe blood and blood products and unsafe injections, Teixeira and Fahlen concluded (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/3).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.