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Commentary & Opinion
Opinions: Media Coverage of HIV/AIDS; WTO and Global Health; G8, HIV/AIDS; Stopping Syringe Reuse

December 3, 2009

More Media Coverage of HIV/AIDS Needed

In a New Republic/NPR opinion piece, Harold Pollack, an associate professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, looks at the media's coverage of World AIDS Day. "Almost six thousand people died of AIDS [Tuesday]. ... That it happened to be World AIDS Day was almost incidental. AIDS was certainly incidental to much of the mainstream media. Scanning the [U.S.'s] three leading national newspapers, HIV and AIDS were virtually absent from the front pages. The health sections included some good stuff, including one story about South Africa's decision to treat all children living with HIV; that was pretty much it in the area of AIDS," Pollack writes.

"I can understand why AIDS has become boring. We've lived with it for thirty years now. Once a mysterious new and fatal disease, HIV infection is now a treatable, chronic illness, in the wealthy nations at least," he notes, adding, "Still, it's foolish and disrespectful to the dead to let the day pass unnoticed." Pollack writes, "In addition to supporting larger and smarter investments in global health, we need to have some serious national conversations about our rather stalled HIV prevention efforts here at home" (12/3).

WTO Summit Failed Global Health

"Indeed, for anyone remotely concerned about global health and living standards, this week's little-noticed World Trade Organisation summit in Geneva -- and its ignominious failure -- is far more important than the vastly larger affair in Copenhagen," Columnist Edmund Conway writes in a Telegraph opinion piece.

Conway notes, "In the early days of HIV, a study showed that more than half of all freight drivers in Africa had the virus, and more than three quarters regularly had sex with prostitutes along their routes. It didn't take an epidemiologist to predict what happened next. What turned these outbreaks into a plague, however, was not merely a lack of medical infrastructure, but pointless customs rules." According to Conway, "archaic" trade rules hold many countries' economies back. However, "[t]he summit that concluded last night in Geneva ... failed." He writes that if representatives would have struck a deal it could have "pushed down prices, improved living standards and helped prevent the spread of a deadly virus" (12/3).

Canada Has Unique Opportunity to Fight HIV/AIDS

As host of next year's G8 summit, "Canada has an opportunity to play a major role in moving the agenda forward towards the global control of HIV/AIDS. We must demand that our political leadership delivers on earlier promises," Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society and director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, writes in a Vancouver Sun opinion piece.

"There are troubling indications that financial support [for fighting HIV/AIDS] is waning. ... However, an analysis of G8 spending completed by the International AIDS Society at the end of 2008 suggested that G8 countries had under-committed by half -- far less than needed to secure universal access [to HIV prevention, treatment and care]. This has contributed to the ongoing spread of HIV and AIDS-related morbidity and mortality, especially throughout resource-limited countries around the world," Montaner writes. At the next G8 summit, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen "Harper has a chance to step up, to show true leadership and reignite commitment to universal access ... Much more can be achieved if we meet the goal of universal access before 2015," according to Montaner.

"Everything will be lost if we fail to recommit. The real cost of the G8's failure is the estimated 7,400 people who become newly infected with HIV each day and the nearly 5,500 who die each day from AIDS-related illness. All of which are preventable," he writes (12/1).

The Dangers of Syringe Reuse

In a CNN opinion piece, Marc Koska, the founder of Star Syringe and the charity SafePoint Trust, discusses efforts to prevent deaths related to the reuse of syringes around the world. Koska writes about his invention, the K1 Auto-Disable (AD) syringe, which "can only be used once" with the goal of stopping "the spread of blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis."

"The toll from the reuse of syringes now exceeds that of malaria, with deaths due to this practice estimated at about 1.3 million each year," according to Koska. He notes, "If an injection is given safely, there is no risk of further infection and therefore there are no additional costs linked to further treatment for secondary, treatment-caused infection. Staff are happier and valuable bed space is kept free." Koska writes, "Medical practitioners are blindly giving unsafe injections because they don't have the resources to do otherwise, or they simply don't understand the consequences it can have" (12/1).

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