Sunday, July 29, 2012

AIDS 2012

Two news items from the 19th International AIDS Conference held last week in Washington. Over 20,000 people gathered for the biennial meeting.

1. AIDS and Women

A shift in the emphasis of PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) programming towards viewing women not solely as the deliverers of babies, but as people who deserve to live in their own right, was called for at the conference. Despite significant progress in preventing mother to child transmission, Dr. Chewe Luo of UNICEF cautioned that there needs to be a shift that includes focusing on treatment for women.
This means that regardless of CD4 count, pregnant women should start anti-retroviral therapy for life, instead of just the pregnancy period. Ultimately this therapy could lead to fewer children orphaned by AIDS, and an increased likelihood that a woman’s subsequent babies would be protected. [CD4 or T-cells are part of the immune system. The number of CD4 cells in a drop of blood is an indication of the progression of HIV and possibly AIDS.]
Women are both biologically and culturally more vulnerable to infection. Young women between 15 and 24 account for around 70% of the total number of young people living with HIV. Among this age group, females are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence, discrimination and self-esteem issues that might make it difficult to negotiate condom use.
Continuing the emphasis on gender equality, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta affirmed that all young women should be afforded the same support as expectant mothers if progress is to be made. "These adolescent girls and young women represent an unfinished agenda in the AIDS response," she stated.

2. Investment in prevention and treatment

Domestic investment on HIV and AIDS has for the first time exceeded global international investment on the epidemic, according to a new report released by UNAIDS called Together We Will End AIDS.
  • International assistance has largely remained the same from 2006 to 2011. 
  • Conversely, domestic spending on HIV and AIDS has increased by more than 50% in 81 countries. 
  • Sub-Saharan Africa (except South Africa) increased public investment by a staggering 97%
  • Low and middle-income countries are progressively taking ownership and becoming accountable for their own AIDS epidemic.
The report shows that the number of AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections have both declined from 2010. It also states that the number of people accessing treatment in low and middle-income countries is up by 20% from last year, to just over half of those who are eligible.

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