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Commentary & Opinion
AIDS 2010 Opinions: U.S. AIDS Funding; Human Rights and HIV; Invest in Primary Care; Microbicide Gel's Possibilities

July 21, 2010

U.S. Should Spend More to Combat HIV Globally

"Having met President [Barack] Obama, I'm confident that he's a man of conscience who shares my commitment to bringing hope and care to the world's poor. But I am saddened by his decision to spend less than he promised to treat AIDS patients in Africa," Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and honorary chairman of the Global AIDS Alliance, writes in a New York Times opinion piece.

According to Tutu, "Obama added only $366 million to [PEPFAR] this year -- well below the $1 billion per year he promised to add when he was on the campaign trail. (PEPFAR's total budget now stands at $7 billion.) Most of the countries in PEPFAR will see no increase in aid." He also notes changes in the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and writes that "American financing for the fund should be increasing."

"As the 18th International AIDS Conference is held this week in Vienna, President Obama should reconsider his commitment to fighting the disease. Surely the richest country on the planet can find the means to fight this scourge," Tutu concludes (7/21).

Western Countries Must Recognize Human Rights Dimension of HIV/AIDS

"The battle against HIV/AIDS is a useful example of why the protection of human rights is essential to good health outcomes. The sad fact is that advances in human rights around the world have not kept up with advances in medicine when it comes to HIV/AIDS, the result being that far too many people are unable to benefit from the latter," an Ottawa Citizen editorial states, noting that "legalized harassment of homosexuals is particularly worrisome."

Policies prohibiting homosexuality in more than 80 countries or denial of the existence of HIV/AIDS means that "population groups most at risk of developing and spreading HIV/AIDS often refuse to seek treatment or even get tested for fear of the repercussions," the newspaper writes. "Given the climate of fear, denial and discrimination, medical treatments that can prolong life don't necessarily reach those who need them."

"Canada and other western countries must recognize this problem when they contribute towards HIV/AIDS research. All the science in the world will not be the answer without some measure of political and civil rights protections," the editorial says (7/21).

Invest in Primary Care for HIV and Other Major Health Issues

"There is only one proven way to confront collectively the AIDS pandemic and the other common preventable or treatable diseases that kill tens of millions of people per year: Invest in primary health care. This is the best way to implement an integrated program that enables us to manage a patient's overall health needs -- from prevention to treatment," Canadian Member of Parliament Keith Martin, a physician who founded the Canadian Physician Overseas program and of the Centres for International Health and Development initiative, writes in a Montreal Gazette opinion piece.

"There is also a natural convergence between addressing the AIDS pandemic and improving maternal and child health ... Quite simply, if you can provide good obstetric care for a pregnant woman, it means there is access to basic surgical capabilities, trained health-care workers, basic medications, electrical power, access to proper nutrition, and clean water," Martin observes.

"The international community must stop focusing on specific diseases and instead take a broader, public health view. Vienna's AIDS conference offers an ideal opportunity to break down the silos, cast a spotlight on what works, and invest in the primary health care systems that low-income countries need to improve the overall health and welfare of their people, whether they are HIV-positive or not," Martin writes (7/21).

Microbicide Gel Could Be "Huge Breakthrough" in AIDS Fight

"The gel is not perfect. But for the first time in the fight to control the global epidemic, it offers women a way to protect themselves even without the cooperation of their male partners. That is a potentially huge breakthrough," according to a New York Times editorial about a study, released at AIDS 2010, which found that a microbicide gel used by women before and after sex could reduce risk of HIV infection by nearly 40 percent.

"The new gel seems destined to take its place alongside condoms and male circumcision as proven techniques for reducing transmission. But not just yet," the editorial states noting that additional tests are needed, more protective formulations should be found and it needs to be marketed appropriately so that women will use it. "Slowing the spread of HIV will require multiple approaches. The challenge will be to find enough money at a time of limited resources when AIDS financing has flattened out. Prevention should save money and many lives. All efforts to support the most promising leads should be pursued," the editorial concludes (7/20).

All of the Kaiser Family Foundation's webcasts of select sessions from AIDS 2010 are available at www.kff.org/aids2010.

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This information was reprinted from kff.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.




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