AIDS 2012 Opens With Announcement Of Public-Private Initiatives to Fight HIV In The US
7/23/2012 9:00:00 AM
By Alex Garner
The International AIDS Conference opened in Washington D.C. on the evening of July 22, 2012. This was the first time the conference had been held in the U.S. since the HIV travel ban was implemented in the 90s. Obama administration fully lifted the HIV-travel ban, finally allowing the conference to return after 22 years.
The theme of the conference, which runs until July 27th, is “Turning The Tide,” as many scientists, doctors and advocates are cautiously optimistic that advancements in treatment and prevention will bring an end to the epidemic. It’s important to note that they are not yet talking about eradicating HIV. They are talking about slowing and containing the epidemic. That might mean it would be reduced in the general population or in the developed nations and only show up in certain groups or countries. Considering that 60% of all new infections globally are men who have sex with men, it would seem that the epidemic is rather specific to a population already.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleeen Sebelius was there to announce several public-private initiatives to fight the epidemic in the U.S. The Secretary Sebelius made news a few days ago when it was announced that $80 million in grants would be given to the states to get rid of the ADAP wait list for lifesaving medications. Secretary Sebelius detailed four initiatives that they hope will improve prevention and treatment – Working with the MAC AIDS Foundation to create a text message program to improve patient management; partnering with Walgreens to develop medication management; creating a common, easy to use form for HIV patient assistance program applications; launching online education modules, in conjunction with Medscape, to better train providers to treat people with HIV.
The Obama administration has a welcome video for attendees. Many were upset and disappointed that he didn’t show up in person but other felt his policies were more important than his physical presence.
Other speakers at the opening session included Jim Kim of the World Bank, a video address by Secretary General of the United Nations, SG Ban-Ki-moon, and U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Congresswoman Lee has be a strident supporter of people with HIV and just introduced a bill to “provide policy and financing framework to achieve an AIDS-free generation.” Congresswoman Less is very passionate in her fight against HIV and in her support for the rights of all marginalized communities. She is one of a handful of people working to repeal HIV criminalization laws.
The conference is not with out controversy. While the science of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is sound, many have ethical concerns about its practical application. In addition to that activists rallied against the conference being held in the U.S. due to a current travel ban on drug-users and sex workers. Since those two communities are severely impacted by the epidemic all around the globe, many felt that their inability to participate would hinder having their needs met or voices heard.
The conference brings together many diverse people to discuss HIV in their communities and strategize ending the epidemic. This is just the first day of the weeklong conference and many excited details are expected as the event unfolds.
A substantial portion of the conference will be available through webcasts produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation here. There will also be videos and slide presentations available through the conference Programme-at-a-Glance.
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