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AIDS Action Weekly Update

July 11, 2002

This Week in Washington

Women's Lobbying Day

AIDS Action staff joined the Women's Health Research Coalition for their annual Capitol Hill Lobbying Day on Monday, July 8, 2002. Visits were made to various members of the House of Representatives and Senate to point out the need for increased investment in women's health programs, including HIV education and prevention among women and funding for microbicide research.

National Broadcast Radio Interviews

AIDS Action staff participated in a number of national radio interviews this week regarding the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Specifically, AIDS Action was asked to address a myriad of issues ranging from the projected exponential increase in HIV/AIDS cases to the necessity for increased funding to battle HIV/AIDS here in the United States and abroad. AIDS Action was honored to be asked to represent the HIV/AIDS community in each of these broadcasts. Moreover, AIDS Action was able to communicate our message on the need for everyone to know their status, reduce risk behaviors, and the urgent need for the Bush Administration and Congress to redouble their efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS.

International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain

AIDS Action hosted a special satellite session during the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday, July 10, 2002 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The session was entitled "U.S. Domestic HIV/AIDS Agenda, 20 Years Later: A Global Conversation." To view a webcast of the AIDS Action session, as well as other coverage of the conference, click here.

93rd Annual NAACP Convention

The NAACP held its annual conference in Houston, Texas this week. The conference theme this year was "Freedom Under Fire." For more information, click here.

United States Conference on AIDS

The United States Conference on AIDS will take place September 19-22, 2002, in Anaheim, California. For more information, click here.

4th Annual Harm Reduction Coalition Conference

The Harm Reduction Coalition will be holding their 4th annual conference from December 1-4, 2002 in Seattle, Washington. The title of this year's conference is "Taking Drug Users Seriously." For more information, click here.

In the News

Expert Says AIDS May Never Be Eradicated

Peter Piot, executive director of the Joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS said on July 4, 2002 that HIV may be here to stay. Infection rates are still going up and are expected to increase for years to come. Piot also believes that we may never find a vaccine that stops every form of transmission. "I don't think we will see, in our lifetime, the end of AIDS and of the AIDS epidemic," he said. "I think we need to start reasoning in terms of generations."

Eastern Europe Hit by High HIV Rise

On July 4, 2002 the BBC reported that Eastern Europe and the former Soviet states now have the sharpest increase in HIV infection in the world. In the Ukraine, 1% of the population has already contracted the virus and that figure is expected to double in the next decade. The Ukraine saw its first cases of HIV only seven years ago and since that time has seen the figure increase from 1,400 to 43,000. To read the article, click here.

Report Says Ugandan AIDS Program Cuts Cases by a Third

A report on the battle against AIDS in Uganda, released on July 4, 2002, concludes that prevention efforts in the African country have lowered HIV/AIDS cases by over a third. The program, aggressively promoted by President Yoweri Museveni, included major public awareness campaigns, promotion of condom use and access to free counseling.

Young People Are Ignorant About HIV

A survey in the UK announced by the BBC on July 5, 2002 found that one in three young people think there is a cure for HIV, one in four 18 to 24 year olds think the disease can be caught through kissing and one in 10 think it can be caught from toilet seats. The survey also found that two out of three people think that sex education for young people is inadequate. To read the article, click here.

Russia Lacks AIDS Funds

Russia's top AIDS official warned on July 5, 2002 that severe underfunding of treatment and prevention programs may lead to disaster. The official said that Russia has only committed $190,000 to AIDS research compared to $500 million by the United States. Russia's current financing covers just 450 people, although there are already 2,000 AIDS patients in Russia and there will be 200,000 in several years. To read the article, click here.

New Study Shows Signs of Hope

After the release of several studies reporting the dire state of AIDS, a new study released July 4, 2002 offers a gleam of hope, concluding that increased funding for prevention could avert two-thirds of the world's HIV cases. A team of senior researchers predicted an additional 45 million infections worldwide by 2010, but said that 29 million of those cases, or 63 percent, could be prevented. The study appears in the medical journal Lancet.

Court Clears Way for South African AIDS Drugs

On July 5, 2002, South Africa's highest court ordered the government to stop blocking the universal provision at public hospitals of anti-AIDS drugs to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease. South Africa's Health minister accepted the court decision and said that it confirmed the government's approach to provide anti-retroviral treatment wherever the resources were available.

Thai Study Shows Hope for Mother-Child Transmission/Many New HIV Cases in San Francisco Are Drug Resistant

On July 6th, 2002, scientists released findings on mother-to-child transmission rates in Thailand that show promise for other developing countries. Although figures cannot be finalized until the babies in the study reach almost 2 years of age, preliminary findings show that infection in children could be reduced by up to 50%. Another study released at the same time shows that people contracting HIV in San Francisco are commonly contracting drug resistant strains of HIV. Among those who contracted drug resistant strains, it can take up to 12 weeks of treatment to get levels that only 4 weeks of treatment provide in non-resistant individuals. To read the article, click here.

14th International Conference on AIDS Opens With Controversy

On July 7, 2002 the 14th International Conference on AIDS opened in Barcelona, Spain amid protests by AIDS activists. Whistles and jeers from the protesters drowned out the opening ceremonies and made the opening remarks from Spanish Health Minister Celia Villalobos almost inaudible. Many of the conference's 15,000 participants walked out.

Study Finds AIDS Is Shortening Life Span in 51 Nations

A study presented at the 14th International Conference on AIDS in Barcelona, Spain, on July 7, 2002, found that the AIDS pandemic will cause a decline in life expectancy in 51 nations. Seven countries in sub-Sahara Africa now have a life expectancy of 40, where it would have been 72, if it were not for AIDS. The study also found that young women are the most severely hit in these countries, which may be leading to even higher HIV infection levels. Stephen Lewis, U.N. special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa said yesterday at a briefing, "This pandemic has become a war on women. AIDS has become the ultimate symbol of gender inequity." To read the article, click here.

Study Finds Many Gay Men Unaware of HIV-Positive Status

A study presented at the 14th International Conference on AIDS in Barcelona, Spain, on July 7, 2002, found that many gay men in the United States are unaware of being HIV+, especially among minorities. The study involved 5,719 men who were interviewed in places frequented by gays. 573 of those tested were found to be HIV positive, of that 440, or 77 percent were unaware of their status. Although the results were made available to those tested, it is not known how many of them learned about their infection. To read the article, click here.

New AIDS Drug Brings Price Challenges

T-20, the first in a new line of AIDS drugs called fusion inhibitors, is expected to be approved in the U.S. and Europe early next year, but government officials and private insurance companies are worried about the price. T-20 could cost as much as 12-15,000 dollars a year, causing problems for already strained public assistance programs.

Conference Calls for New AIDS Alliance

On June 7, 2002, at the 14th International AIDS Conference, three of the largest organizations involved in the global AIDS epidemic called for a new alliance to bring AIDS medicines to the world's poor. The alliance would make health care experts more available in developing countries where most AIDS patients live. Officials of the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, and the World Bank, joined IAS to call for the creation of an alliance. They discussed the idea with representatives of about 40 government agencies and academic and activist organizations. The group plans to meet again in October to formulate specific plans to create an independent organization. To read the article, click here.

Demographics of AIDS Shifting in the United States

At the opening session of the 14th International Conference on AIDS, Dr. Ronald Valdiserri of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of new HIV infections in the U.S. has remained relatively constant, about 40,000 a year since 1998. However, the apparent stability is concealing a steady increase in the number of gay black men and heterosexual black women who are contracting the disease. African Americans account for 75% of all new HIV infections of heterosexuals in the U.S., which is enormously disproportionate considering that blacks represent only 12% of the U.S. population, Valdiserri said. Latinos who make up less than 13% of the population also are disproportionately affected. Valdiserri called for a recommitment to prevention of the disease as was seen in the first decade of the epidemic.

Asia Criticized for Silence Toward Growing Epidemic

On July 8, 2002 at the 14th International Conference on AIDS, AIDS experts and activists denounced Asian leaders for their silence. Asia has a great possibility of surpassing Africa as the continent with the most HIV/AIDS cases. Currently Asia has the second highest rate, with 6.6 million HIV/AIDS cases.

Scientists Present AIDS Vaccine Research

Scientists involved in AIDS vaccine research presented at the International AIDS Conference on July 8, 2002, and promised that a vaccine may be available in the near future. Many scientists are concerned that a vaccine may never be able to 100 percent block the transmission of HIV but one may be developed that could be combined with other vaccines and at least provide some protection. To read the article, click here.

Jim Lehrer Features Interview With Peter Piot

On July 8, 2002, PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" featured an interview with UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot and International AIDS Trust President Sandra Thurman on recent findings about the spread of the pandemic, and increased infection rates among certain populations, presented at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain. To hear or read the transcript of the segment, click here.

Brazil to Share AIDS Technology

Brazil has announced a plan to share its HIV/AIDS drug technology with the world's poorest 10 countries. This plan would help close the gap in treatment between the rich and poor nations of the world. In a highly successful program, Brazil has pioneered the use of generic antiretrovirals to fight HIV/AIDS.

Herpes Boosts Risk of HIV Infection

Researchers announced on July 8, 2002 that they have found a link between Herpes Symplex Virus 2 (HSV-2) and HIV infection. In one study, researchers found that being infected by HSV-2, nearly tripled their chances of becoming HIV+. Dr. A. Kamali of the Medical Research Council in Entebbe, Uganda believes that developing a vaccine for HSV-2 directed at high-risk populations, could reduce HIV infection rates.

Drug "Boosting" May Help Hard-to-Treat Patients

Doctors from the Swiss healthcare group Roche Holding AG cited encouraging results from four new studies of a treatment known as "double boosting," in which low doses of a second medicine are given on top of a traditional treatment. The treatment combines a mixture of lopinavir and ritonavir.

AIDS Activists Fume at Frist

The CQ Daily Monitor reported on July 8, 2002 that AIDS activists feel that Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn) has reneged on his commitment to support large increases in funding for HIV/AIDS following intervention from the White House. Senator Frist had originally called for $500 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria until the White House asked him to agree to a proposal that cut the number to $300 million.

Clinton Returns to MTV

On Thursday July 11, former President Bill Clinton will be a part of an MTV special from the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona titled "Staying Alive: A Global Forum on HIV/AIDS." Clinton and other panelists will answer questions from an audience of young adults from over 25 different countries. The show will be broadcast starting July 12, 2002 to more than 50 MTV stations around the world. MTV programs reach 382 million households in 165 countries.

Senate Finance Votes Medicaid Coverage for Disabled Children

On Thursday, July 11, 2002 the Senate Finance Committee approved by voice vote a bill that would allow states to offer Medicaid coverage to disabled children whose parents' income is too high to qualify for income support (S 321). The measure, which is sponsored by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and co-sponsored by nearly 75% of the Senate, would make Medicaid available to families with disabled children with incomes of up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, about $45,250 for a family of four. However, opponents of the measure have expressed several concerns regarding the proposed changes, including the estimated cost of $5.7 billion over 10 years. Medicaid expansion is a topic of particular concern to the HIV/AIDS community. Many low-income people living with HIV/AIDS are forced to delay treatment because they cannot afford the cost of antiretroviral therapy but do not qualify for Medicaid since they are not considered ill enough to meet the disability requirement. The Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA, HR 2063/S 987) would allow states the option of expanding Medicaid eligibility to low-income HIV positive individuals. Currently, ETHA sits with the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Heath and the Senate Finance Committee. AIDS Action encourages all of its members to contact their representatives in Congress and urge them to support further movement on ETHA.

AIDS Action Board Member Highlight

The AIDS Action Council Board of Directors consists of local HIV/AIDS service providers, health departments and Public Health experts throughout the United States. Each week, the Update will highlight one of these service providers and the work they are doing to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their region.

LA Gay and Lesbian Center is the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization. The staff of more than 250 employees and 3,000 volunteers receives nearly 250,000 visits each year.

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.