The 19th annual International AIDS Conference, convened by the International AIDS Society (IAS), will be held July 22-27 in Washington, D.C., with an expected attendance of 25,000 people.Health workers, scientists and all related personnel agree that giant strides have been made to confront this elusive disease, but much more needs to be done to solve the challenges of HIV and AIDS.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of new cases around the world was 2.7 million in 2011, with 1.9 million of those cases – nearly three quarters – in Sub-Saharan Africa. Possible factors contributing to this high incidence of HIV cases in Africa include cultural traditions; conflicts (which lead to a large number of refugees); and a lack of education about HIV and AIDS. Doctors, nurses and health care workers who are dedicated to serving people with HIV are over-burdened.
Many African countries struggle economically; combatting HIV and AIDS takes precious financial re- sources. In the Abuja Declaration of 2001, African nations pledged to allocate 15 percent of their annual bud- gets to healthcare, which would include responding to HIV. However, more than 10 years later, most countries have not met this target. Kenya, as an example, spends 6.5 percent of its annual budget on health.
In May, it was announced that the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria would be allot- ted an estimated $1.6 billion in additional funds for the 2012-14 period. The availability of the new monies is believed to be the result of renewed confidence in the newly restructured Global Fund. Certainly this is good news for all of those struggling in the field. Dr. Jennifer Cohn with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) told The Guardian (February 2) that in eight of the 19 countries where MSF works with people with HIV, more than 80 percent of patients receive medicine paid for by the Global Fund.
This year marks the first time the International AIDS Conference will be held in the U.S. since 1990. The gathering will host discussions on the current situation, evaluate scientific research, and map a way for- ward while facilitating dialogue among policy makers, individuals living with HIV, and those who are working in the field.
The conference was first held in Atlanta in 1985; in 1990 the IAS resolved to hold the meeting only in countries where participants would not be barred due to their HIV status. This decision therefore excluded the U.S. as a location due to its restriction on inter- national visitors who were HIV positive. In 2009, President Obama reversed the then-22-year ban, and the IAS an- nounced that the 2012 conference would mark a return to the United States. A coalition of advocacy groups from around the world have organized the “We Can End AIDS” campaign, which hopes to mobilize thousands of supporters in Washington, D.C. on July 24 for a march towards the White House with the goal of increasing the local and international political will around HIV and AIDS. The march has been divided into branches with different meeting points; all will march towards the White House, merging together for the final convergence at Lafayette Park midafternoon. Themes of the branches include: • ending corporation-friendly trade deals that allow drug companies to prioritize profit over people; • using the proposed Robin Hood tax to raise money from banks in order to fund treatment and prevention programs (see related article on page 14); and • promoting sound public policies based on science and human needs (which includes ending the federal ban on syringe exchange programs).
Learn more about the conference at www.aids2012.org learn more about the July 24 march at www.we- canendaids.org.