AIDS can be beaten but ‘not free,’ conference told

Science now has the tools to slash the spread of HIV even without a vaccine — and the U.S. is donating an extra $150 million to help poor countries put them in place, the Obama administration told the world’s largest AIDS conference. “We want to get to the end of AIDS,” declared the top U.S. HIV researcher, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

WASHINGTON — Science now has the tools to slash the spread of HIV even without a vaccine — and the U.S. is donating an extra $150 million to help poor countries put them in place, the Obama administration told the world’s largest AIDS conference.

“We want to get to the end of AIDS,” declared the top U.S. HIV researcher, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

How long it takes depends on how quickly the world can adopt those tools, he said — including getting more of the millions of untreated people onto life-saving drugs that come with the bonus of keeping them from infecting others.

“No promises, no dates, but we know it can happen,” Fauci told the International AIDS Conference.

Part of the challenge will be overcoming the stigma that keeps high-risk populations from getting needed AIDS treatment and services.

“We have to replace the shame with love,” singer Elton John told the conference.

“We have to replace the stigma with compassion. No one should be left behind.”

Some 34.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and 2.5 million were infected last year.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the goal is an AIDS-free generation.

That would mean no babies would be born infected, young people would have a much lower risk than today of becoming infected and people who already have HIV would receive life-saving drugs so they wouldn’t develop AIDS or spread the virus.

“I am here today to make it absolutely clear the U.S. is committed and will remain committed to achieving an AIDS-free generation,” Clinton told the more than 20,000 scientists, people living with HIV and policymakers assembled for the conference.

But it will require smart targeting of prevention tools where they can have the greatest effect.

“If we want to save more lives, we need to go where the virus is,” she said.

First, Clinton said it’s possible to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV from infected pregnant women to their babies by 2015, by getting the mothers onto anti-AIDS drugs. HIV-infected births are rare in the United States and are dropping steadily worldwide, although some 330,000 children became infected last year. Clinton said the U.S. has invested more than $1 billion toward that goal in recent years and is providing an extra $80 million to help poor countries finish the job.

Much of the AIDS conference is focused on how to get treatment to all people with HIV, because good treatment can cut by 96 per cent their chances of spreading the virus to sexual partners. Fauci pointed to South Africa, where healthy people who live in a region that has increased medication now have a 38 per cent lower risk of infection compared with neighbours in an area where HIV treatment is less common.

Drugs aren’t the only effective protection. Fauci said male circumcision is “stunningly successful,” too, at protecting men from becoming infected by a heterosexual partner.

Clinton said the U.S. will provide $40 million to help South Africa reach its goal of providing voluntary circumcision to half a million boys and men this year.

A tougher issue is how best to reach particularly high-risk populations: gay and bisexual men, sex workers and injecting drug users.

In many countries, stigma and laws that make their activities illegal drive those populations away from AIDS programs that could teach them how to reduce their risk of infection, Clinton said.

So the U.S. will spend an additional $15 million on research to identify the best HIV prevention tools to reach those key populations in different countries, and then launch a $20 million challenge fund to support efforts to implement that science.

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist, said the world is facing incredible uncertainty about whether wealthy nations will continue funding AIDS programs with the same vigour as in the past.

“As these budget tradeoffs are made, the voices of the AIDS community and the global health community are going to have to be louder than ever,” said Gates, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged more than $1 billion to global AIDS efforts.

Another $7 billion a year is needed to get to 15 million people in low- and middle-income countries by 2015, a United Nations goal. A record 8 million received potentially life-saving drugs last year.

“This gap is killing people,” UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe told the conference. “My friends, the end of AIDS is not free. It is not too expensive. It is priceless.”

Better prevention for gay and bisexual men is a huge issue in the U.S. as well — and a striking study presented Monday added evidence that those men are especially at risk if they’re young and black.

Government-funded researchers tracked black gay and bisexual men in six U.S. cities and found that 2.8 per cent a year are becoming infected, a rate 50 per cent higher than their white counterparts. Worse, the rate was nearly 6 per cent a year in those men who are 30 or younger.

Phill Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute said these men are engaged “in a raging epidemic” that doesn’t get enough attention. He estimated that nearly 60 per cent of black gay men are infected by age 40.

The world spent $16.8 billion fighting AIDS in poor countries, the hardest-hit, last year, and the United States is the leading donor.

But The prices of generic AIDS drugs in developing countries are dropping every year. One philanthropy, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, said 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean that participate in its drug-procurement program now can purchase the main combination for less than $200 a year.

“We have to be innovative,” said Sheila Tlou, the former health minister of Botswana, now with UNAIDS. “We have to look at new ways of funding.”

Speaking to the conference via video, French President Francois Hollande said his country was doing that by beginning what’s called a financial transaction tax next month. The tax idea has received a lukewarm reception in other parts of Europe and the U.S.

Just Posted

Alberta hiring more paramedics and buying new ambulances, none for Red Deer

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is not concerned the provincial government didn’t… Continue reading

‘My nightmare began again’: Close call as bus carrying Humboldt crash survivor rear-ended

CALGARY — A terrifying ordeal for Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki this… Continue reading

Halifax airport operations normalize after Boeing 747 runway overshoot

HALIFAX — The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has resumed normal operations a… Continue reading

Bentley family left without a home grateful for community support

Central Albertans are coming together to support a Bentley family left homeless… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP ready for new mandatory alcohol screening law

Red Deer RCMP are ready to enforce a new law intended to… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer and District Kennel Club Dog Show at Westerner Park

The Red Deer and District Kennel Club is holding a dog show… Continue reading

Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staff

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff… Continue reading

Swath of South faces wintry mess: Snow, sleet, freezing rain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A massive storm brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain… Continue reading

‘I killed my best friend’: Opioids’ fatal grip on mayor, pal

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

Brothers, 20, face second-degree murder charge in death of teen: police

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police west of Toronto say two brothers have been… Continue reading

A young mayor, his friend, and a fatal attraction to opioids

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

GM fights to retain key tax credit amid plant closing plans

WASHINGTON — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit… Continue reading

TTC union asks provincial government to step in on transition to Presto

TORONTO — The union representing transit workers in Canada’s most populous city… Continue reading

Small pot growers find roadblocks on path to microcultivation licences

Yan Boissonneault’s daughter was turning blue. Without warning, his baby had stopped… Continue reading

Most Read