Posts Tagged ‘conférence’

International AIDS Conference aims to finally stem spread of virus

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

CTV News

From dark days to a critical turning point in the AIDS epidemic: The landscape has changed dramatically in the two decades since the world’s largest AIDS conference last met in the United States.

Back in 1990, the first good medicines were still a few years away. Before they arrived, caring for patients with HIV was like “putting Band-Aids on hemorrhages,” said the leading U.S. AIDS researcher, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fast forward: Today’s anti-AIDS drugs work so well they not only give people with HIV a near-normal life expectancy, they offer a double whammy — making those patients less likely to infect other people.

On Sunday, the International AIDS Conference opened in the U.S. capital with the goal of “turning the tide” on HIV. Even without a vaccine or a cure, the goal is to finally stem the spread of the virus, using that so-called “treatment as prevention” and some other powerful protections. The conference runs through Friday.

“There is no excuse, scientifically, to say we cannot do it,” Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, told reporters Sunday.

But the challenge that more than 20,000 scientists, doctors, people living with HIV and policy-makers will grapple with this week is how to get to what the Obama administration calls an AIDS-free generation. Where’s the money? What works best in different countries and cultures?

And with HIV increasingly an epidemic of the poor and the marginalized, will countries find the will to invest in the most vulnerable?

“Rich countries think, ‘Who cares? We have the treatment, I hear now that HIV is a chronic condition,”‘ a worried French Nobel laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of HIV, told The Associated Press. “I really think there is not the same political commitment as it was in the past.”

That political commitment must expand to fight laws that are driving some of the populations most at risk — gay and bisexual men, sex workers and injecting drug users — away from programs that could help protect them from getting or spreading HIV, said Michel Sidibe, director of UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS program.

“It’s outrageous that in 2012, when we have everything to beat this epidemic, that we still have to fight prejudice, stigma, exclusion,” he said.

More than 1,000 people — many of them living with HIV — marched through downtown Washington Sunday to urge the public and policy-makers to pay attention to a disease that, in the U.S., doesn’t get much publicity anymore.

Organizers said the aim of the “Keep the Promise” march was to remind world leaders and policymakers that AIDS remains a threat to global health. Marchers used red umbrellas to create a human red ribbon in advance of the march. Some carried balloons in the shape of globes as they marched, and others carried signs reading “Test & Treat Now” and “Yes we can control AIDS.”

“The war against AIDS has not been won and now is not the time to retreat,” said AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein in an interview Sunday.

Weinstein’s Los Angeles-based group organized the march, which began near the Washington Monument. He said that despite financial hardships worldwide, the struggle against AIDS needs to keep advancing. Weinstein’s organization called for the funding of programs that fight AIDS and lower prices on AIDS drugs. They also are pressing for universal access to condoms and increased rapid HIV testing.

Comedian Margaret Cho, civil rights leader Al Sharpton, former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, and radio cohosts Tavis Smiley and Cornel West spoke to the crowd before Sunday’s march. Musician Wyclef Jean also performed.

The AIDS conference — remarkable for giving a forum not just to leading scientists but to everyday people who live with HIV — hasn’t returned to the U.S. since 1990, in protest of the longtime ban on people with the virus entering the country. The Obama administration lifted the travel ban in 2010, finishing a process begun under the Bush administration. Not lifted was a ban on sex workers and injecting drug users, and protesters briefly interrupted the opening news conference to decry their absence from the meeting.

The conference comes at a time when scientists increasingly say they have powerful new tools to add to tried-and-true condoms.

Studies show treatment-as-prevention, treating HIV right away rather than after someone is sick, lowers patients’ chances of spreading the virus through sex by a stunning 96 per cent. Already, Fauci said regions that are pushing to get more people tested and rushed into treatment are starting to see infections drop, from San Francisco and Washington to part of South Africa.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved a daily AIDS medicine, Truvada, for use by healthy people hoping to lower the risk of infection by a sexual partner. Hard-hit poor countries are grappling with how to get that protection to their highest-risk populations.

Other goals include getting more HIV-infected pregnant women treated to protect their babies, and getting more men circumcised in developing countries to protect them from heterosexual infection.

But the hurdles are huge.

Since the first reports of AIDS surfaced 31 years ago, a staggering 30 million people have died from the virus and 34.2 million now are living with HIV around the world.

There’s still no cure and no vaccine. For every person who starts treatment, two more are becoming infected.

In poor countries, a record 8 million people are getting HIV drugs, but the United Nations says it will take up to $24 billion a year — $7 billion more than is being spent now — to reach those most in need.

The epidemic is worst in developing countries, especially in Africa. Progress has stalled even in the U.S., which has seen about 50,000 new infections every year for a decade. Here, nearly 1.2 million people live with HIV, and one in five don’t know it.

Gay conference in Ethiopia may face ban

Thursday, December 1st, 2011


Religious leaders and government authorities in Ethiopia have ended a meeting on November 29, with an apparent dispute over how to and whether or not ban an upcoming continental gay conference scheduled to be held in Addis Ababa.

Just a day before the 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs) in Africa (ICASA) opens, about 200 gays as well as UN and U.S. officials are expected to gather at Addis Ababa’s Jupiter International Hotel, on December 3 to discuss what the organizers call men having sex with men (MSM) issues.

Gay conference in Ethiopia may face banOrganized by African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), the meeting dubbed ‘Claim, Scale-up, and Sustain’ seeks to increase attention on MSM and HIV related issues in Africa, to reflect on the state of the response in MSM communities in Africa and to identify ways forward for scaling up MSM and HIV interventions, according to News from Africa website.

Religious leaders from Ethiopian Muslim Council, the Ethiopian Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical churches have called a press conference to oppose the gay conference. While they were expected to ask for the banning of the conference Health Minister, Tewodros Adhanom, showed up for what later turned to be an hour long meeting behind closed doors.

“The Minister came to convince the religious leaders to call off the press conference as the government believes it would affect the ICASA turnout,” an informed source said. “In return, the minister may offer to quietly cancel the gay conference.”

At the end of the meeting neither the minister nor religious leaders spoke about what they agreed on. With signs of disappointment on their faces, religious leaders told journalists “the press conference has been postponed to undetermined date.”

If not cancelled, a number of speakers including UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, United States Global AIDS Coordinator, Eric Goosby, and current Chairperson of the Committee for the Protection of the rights of PLHIV, Reine Alapini – Gansou, are expected at the gay conference. They are set to discuss health and human rights issues facing gays, including criminalization of same-sex practices.

Ethiopia’s criminal law strictly prohibits any form of homosexuality on grounds that they are against country’s cultural norms and astray normal sexual practices. Homosexual or same sex marriage and unethical activities in the country are considered as criminal and the person who is engaged in such activity would be imprisoned from 3 to 10 years.

Exactly three years ago, Ethiopian religious leaders gathered to lobby lawmakers to enact a constitutional ban on homosexuality. The clerics said the current laws were inadequate.

Abune Paulos, head the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, said then that Ethiopia’s special place in biblical traditions means a firm stance is warranted. “We strongly condemn this behaviour. They have to be disciplined and their acts discriminated, they have to be given a lesson,” he said.

His idea was shared by other religious leaders who attended the December 2008 meeting.

Dr. Seyoum Antonios, Executive Director of United for Life Ethiopia – a local NGO – had said a tough stance is timely as some visitors come and engage in sex tourism and the prostitution business is also experiencing changes. According to him, the practice was a new phenomenon brought about with the increased exposure to globalizing trends, adding that orphans are especially at risk as they do not have proper family protection.

The religious leaders deemed homosexuality part of “cultural colonization” and a sign the new generation is “loosening”. They cited preaching in religious institutions, schools, societal institutions and societal out-casting as key to ensuring the practice does not become widespread.

The final resolution of the meeting had called on Ethiopian lawmakers to act forcefully against homosexuals: “We urge parliamentarians to endorse a ban on homosexuality in the constitution.”

Homosexuality is illegal in about 80 countries throughout the world and nine countries prescribe death as a punishment.

AIDS conference closes on optimistic note

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

An international AIDS meeting in Rome has wrapped with a dose of optimism on preventing the spread of HIV.

Scientists attending the four-day meeting of the International AIDS Society presented the results of trials on how to essentially stop the spread of AIDS.

Delegates celebrated the results of a trial of 1,763 heterosexual couples where one partner was infected with HIV while the other was HIV-free. Investigators showed that giving antiretroviral drugs to an infected person not only helps them to live longer but also dramatically reduces the chance of spreading the virus to others.

“By treating people infected with HIV, we decreased the likelihood of transmission of the virus by 96.3 per cent,” said Julio Montaner of the BC Centre for Excellence for HIV and AIDS, who is involved in the research. “This is dramatic. Nothing works as well when it comes to decreasing HIV transmission as treatment does.”

The treatment as prevention approach works by forcing the virus to retreat instead of circulating in the blood or other body fluids where it can be transmitted.International political commitment is needed to expand HIV treatment, scientists and activists say.International political commitment is needed to expand HIV treatment, scientists and activists say. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Montaner wants efforts stepped up to expand treatment, especially to vulnerable women and children, and those at high risk, including sex workers and intravenous drug users.

Michel Sidibe, the executive director of UNAIDS, said about 9 million people who could benefit from the therapy are not getting it.

Political commitment

Now, political commitment is needed to make sure drugs, health services and educational programs are available to those in need.

Montaner is frustrated with the progress on that front.

“Within my lifetime, I have seen a raging epidemic now coming under control therapeutically and again now a unique opportunity to stop it altogether. And yet the political leadership is looking the other way. They are not interested,” Montaner said.

Expanding treatment is within reach if the international community responds, said Richard Elliott, head of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network in Toronto.

“We’ve shown that you can put millions of people successfully on treatment in the course of a few years,” said Elliott. “There’s no reason why we can’t keep building on that success if there’s a willingness to do it.”

The International AIDS Society stages a scientific conference every two years, with the next scheduled for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2013. The forum alternates with the wider International AIDS Conference, which next year takes place in Washington.

Importante conférence sur le Vih/Sida à Rome

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011


Rome – La directrice de l’Institut national de lutte contre le Sida, Dulcelina Serrano, a qualifié de très importante la tenue de la VIème conférence (IAS 2011) sur le HIV/Sida qui se déroule depuis dimanche à Rome, en Italie.

Selon elle, il est encore tôt de faire l’évaluation des résultats de la rencontre qui s’achève mercredi, mais cette responsable est  convaincue que les objectifs seront atteints.

“Le forum a pour base principale la présentation des études en cours sur diverses stratégies de lutte et de prévention de la pandémie”, a-t-elle dit ajoutant que les attentes sont énormes même s’il y a des controverses entre plusieurs intervenants principalement ceux des malades vierges.

Plus de 5 mille délégués parmi les chercheurs, scientifiques, médecins et d’autres spécialistes discutent des questions importantes.

A la clôture des travaux sera rendue publique la déclaration de Rome.