Medical progress now ensures that HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence, but only for those who can access good medical care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost three out of four Americans with HIV are not receiving enough medicine or regular health care “to stay healthy or prevent themselves from transmitting the virus to others.” Out of the 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV, 850,000 aren’t receiving regular treatment to keep the virus at a low enough level to prevent transmission or hurt their own health and 240,000 Americans don’t even know they’re infected with HIV.
For some, medical treatment is hard to come by. A Williams Institute study found that 5 percent of dentists in Los Angeles refused services to those with HIV/AIDs, a rate that is “lower than that of other health care providers. Over the past decade, “55% of obstetricians, 46% of skilled nursing facilities, and 25% of plastic surgeons” in L.A. “had policies that specifically discriminated against people living with HIV or AIDS.” Successful treatment rates “were lowest in blacks and women,” according to CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden.
European Austerity Measures May Lead To Spike In HIV Infections |
European austerity measures may be causing a rise in drug-related HIV infections, health officials warn, as governments stretch limited resources to pay for prevention programs. “Across Europe drug services are under pressure, and HIV prevention is not always given the policy priority it once had,” said Wolfgang Gotz, director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. “In some (EU) member states, we are witnessing an exceptional set of circumstances that create a perfect storm for causing the rapid spread of drug-related HIV infections within vulnerable communities.”
Baptist Bishop Calls On Gay People To ‘Seek Help,’ Stop Spreading AIDS |
A Baptist bishop in the Bahamas is calling on gay people to “seek help” and turn away from their “deadly, abnormal sexual practices,” which he attributes to the nation’s high HIV/AIDS rate. “Homosexuality, like lesbianism, is anti-family and it goes against what God has ordained,” says Bishop Simeon Hall of the New Covenant Baptist Church. “This sexual practice cannot produce anything and now we are seeing that, according to statistics, it is deadly.” Statistics do show that adult HIV prevalence in the Bahamas “is among the highest in the Caribbean at 3.3 percent,” but the virus “occurs primarily among heterosexuals.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the United States and her allies to scale up their funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment to “change the course of this pandemic and usher in an AIDS-free generation,” during a speech at the NIH this morning. “I want the American people to understand the irreplaceable role the U.S. has played in the fight against HIV/AIDS, it is their tax dollars, our tax dollars that have made this possible and we need to keep going,” she said before announcing, “creating an HIV-free population has never been a government priority until today. Today it is possible because of scientific advances largely funded by the United States.” Watch a compilation of the speech:
Clinton said she envisioned a world in which virtually no children are born with the virus, face far lower risk of becoming infected, and have access to treatments that prevent the development of AIDS and reduce spreading the infection. “HIV may be there in the future, but the disease that it causes may not be,” she said, laying out three “combination prevention” measures that would help meet the new goal:
1) Preventing mother to child transmission: 1 in 7 occurs when a mother passes the virus to her child, Clinton noted and joked: “We can get that number to zero. I keep saying zero, my speech writer keeps saying virtually zero.” She set the goal of eliminating new infections among children by 2015.
2) Voluntary male circumcision: Clinton described this option as a low-cost procedure that reduces the risk of female to male transmission by more than 60 percent. Since 2007, some 1 million have been circumcised for HIV prevention, with 3/4 of the procedures having been funded by PEPFAR.
3) Treating with anti-retro viral drugs:“If you treat a person living with HIV effectively, you reduce the risk of transmission to a partner by 96 percent,” Clinton said and pledged to “scale-up” funding that will have a profound impact on the fight against AIDS.
“Scaling up combination prevention would drive down new infections by at lest 40-60 percent,” Clinton predicted, “on top of 25 percent drop” that has occurred due to existing efforts. As a result, the number of new infections will decrease, making it possible to treat new infections each ear. “And so instead of falling behind, we will for the first time get ahead of the prevention,” Clinton explained. “We will be on the path of an AIDS-free generation.”
Clinton took a veiled shot at Republicans, referring to “some who wish us to live in an evidence free zone.” “It’s imperative that we stand up for evidence and for science. Facts are stubborn things, even though they might in the short term be dismissed. Eventually we will prevail,” she promised. The Secretary of State also announced $60 million in additional funding to determine how best to implement combination prevention strategies.
Clinton announced that Ellen DeGeneres has been named as a Special Envoy for Global AIDS Awareness. “I’m honored to have been chosen by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as Special Envoy for Global AIDS awareness. The fight against AIDS is something that has always been close to my heart. And I’m happy that I can use my platform to educate people and spread hope. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look up what “envoy” means,” DeGeneres said in a statement.
Commonwealth Report Calls On Countries To Abandon Anti-Gay Laws |
A report to British Commonwealth leaders calls for the repeal of anti-gay laws, but “frames the issue as one of disease control, stating such laws ‘impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” Even the Queen echoed a general call for reforms, saying “I wish heads of government well in agreeing further reforms that respond boldly to the aspirations of today and that keep the Commonwealth fresh and fit for tomorrow.” Forty-one of the 54 Commonwealth countries still criminalize gay sex.
Senate Banned Funding To AIDS Programs That ‘Promote Homosexuality’ 24 Years Ago Today |
The U.S. Senate voted 94-2 to ban federal funding for AIDS programs that “promote homosexuality,” 24 years ago today, Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway notes. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) offered the amendment and cited comic books published by the Gay Mens’ Health Crisis in New York to argue, “If the American people saw these books, they would be on the verge of revolt.” He claimed the books showed “graphic detail of a sexual encounter between two homosexual men. The comic books do not encourage a change in that perverted behavior. In fact, the comic books promote sodomy.” The measure passed in the House by a vote of 358-47 and remained in effect until it was overturned by a federal court in 1992.
Elton John and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) have an op-ed in Politico this morning urging Congress to increase funding for programs that provide access to HIV/AIDS drugs. “All 50 states now have assistance programs for people with low income, living with the disease. But, in an increasing number, the need for these medications is greater than federal and state funding,” the two warn, arguing that “these cuts will only lead to higher costs to taxpayers in the long run“:
First, patients who lose their assistance and are forced off HIV medications could develop drug-resistant strains of HIV — which may well be more difficult to manage.
Second, denying treatment to low-income, HIV-positive people will most likely result in increased transmission of the disease. A recent, groundbreaking study by the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that people living with HIV who receive effective drug treatment are 96 percent less likely to pass the virus on to their uninfected partners.
Third, while HIV/AIDS medications are expensive, the emergency room and hospital care required by people who do not receive them is far more costly.
While Congress debates funding levels for the next fiscal year — President Obama asked Congress to increase funding for AIDS medications to $940 million in the next fiscal year, but a Senate appropriations subcommittee has only approved $900 million — HHS has recently released $1.89 billion in grants through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Approximately $1.213 billion will be sent to states and territories under Part B of the Ryan White Program, with $813 million of that total designated specifically for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). ADAP is a national initiative funded by the federal and state governments and run by the states that provides prescription drug coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS. As of October, 7,409 individuals in 10 states were waiting to sign up for the program.
Meanwhile, health advocates continue to fight against cuts to health care programs that HIV/AIDS patients rely on. Earlier this week, House members from California met with CMS Administrator Donald Berwick and urged him to deny the state’s request to cut $1.4 billion from Medicaid, the single largest source of coverage for people with HIV.
Mitt Romney refused to commit to funding to the U.S. Global AIDS initiative during a town hall in New Hampshire on Monday and suggested that HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment may take a back seat to his goal of reducing deficit spending. Romney was asked about his approach three separate times during the event, but seemed unaware of the issue and stopped short of laying out a comprehensive approach:
ROMNEY: I will commit to look at that issue, but I’m not going to tell you exactly how we’re going to spend money on a federal level, budget by budget item. [...]
The answer is, I’m not going to commit to its funding level at that level, because I haven’t evaluated in the context of the entire budget and what our priorities would be, but I can say this, which is, at a time when we are borrowing money to pay for things…I’m very reluctant to borrow lots more money to be able to do wonderful things, if those things can be done by people making charitable contributions or if other countries that are wealthy…
President George W. Bush established the U.S. Global AIDS initiative — and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which represents the largest component of the initiative — in 2003, in an effort to connect the poorer people of the world with HIV/AIDS treatment. From 2003 to 2008, Congress committed $18.8 billion to PEPFAR, exceeding the original $15 billion first pledged, and appropriated another $48 billion over a five-year period. President Obama’s proposed 2011 budget included almost $7 billion for PEPFAR, representing a 1.8 percent increase on the previous year. The program is supporting treatment for millions of people around the world and has averted “240,000 infant infections” in its first five years.
At the town hall, Romney tried to obscure his unfamiliarity with the issue by claiming that he isn’t prepared to set budget goals for any of his initiatives. But Romney is more than happy to set targets for defense spending, which he has pledged to increase from “about 3.8 percent of the GDP” to “about 4 percent” if elected president.