Live blogging the Opening Plenary, Day 2 #aids 2010

That’s it for our live coverage this morning. Enjoy the rest of your day and we’ll see you tomorrow morning!

10.45 — We will never surrendering our country to the ravages of HIV & AIDS! What an ending and the vuvuzelas ring out en force! Bravo!

10.41 — Investing in health is investing development. Investing in HIV & AIDS is investing in health. There is no conflict between prevention and treatment. We must invest in both.

10.39 — In South Africa, the MDGs will not be met unless we continue to respond to HIV & AIDS.

10.38 — Increases in spending on HIV & AIDS has lead to increased spending on healthcare in general, which has had many benefits to the people of Africa.

10.36 — We have to ensure that public and private money is spent responsibly. Corrupt officials must be prosecuted (here, here!).

10.30 — By the end of 2011, all 4000 healthcare facilities in South Africa will carry and provide ARV to treatment those who need it.

10.24 —  A bit of technical difficulty this morning in the media centre. Minister Motsoaledi says that 43% of maternal mortality is HIV related.

10.16 — Today, we are guided by science and evidence to provide access to treatment for all South Africans and to control HIV in our country.

10.13 — Next up, South African Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi (and the vuvuzelas ring out).

10.10 — We must recognise and prioritise violence against women as a human rights issue on its own and in terms of its intersection with HIV.

10.04 — Human rights are often overlooked in the process of our search for renewed funding. Monitoring and evaluation, as well as evidence needs to be used beyond the quest for funds. What do we do with these data when we have our conversations with the Ministry of Health or Ministry of Health? Do we bring up our experiences as healthcare providers when treating patients who have experienced violence?

10.01 — Programmes based on abstinence and faithfulness assumes that sex is consensual and does not take note of violence against women and girls.

9.57 — It is individual women who have to live with the results (e.g., pregnancy, HIV, etc) of violence against women and girls including sexual violence.

9.52 — Need to talk about how women are made vulnerable rather than intrinsically vulnerable.

9.44 — Violence against Women & Girls and HIV are human rights and public health crises in the global North as well as the global South. ‘Women are people, not just mothers and daughters’.

9.42 — Up to 70% of female murder victims are killed by their male partners (WHO 2002)

9.39 — Everjoice Win is now up from ActionAID International is now speaking on ‘Violence Against Women & Girls’. She begins with a favourite song of mine from Tracy Chapman.

9.36 — Early initiation of ART with acute infection the potential results include reduction in the size of the HIV reservoir, preservation of immune function (which is key to finding a cure), increased possibility of cure, health benefits to the individual, and decreased transmission within the community.

9.34 — Blocking the replication rate of the virus pre- and post-exposure can work to ‘kill’ the virus, which is a subtle, but important difference.

9.31 — Opportunities for intervention in early HIV events include condoms, microbicides and STI treatment. Exciting news in that microbicides have now been demonstrated as effected. Male circumcision as well has been demonstrated as a means to decrease vulnerability to HIV transmission.

9.24 — NB: Hopefully, our Head of Medical Affairs Dr Ben Young will have a few moments to sometime this week to provide a summary of Dr Fauci’s talk. It’s a little technical for yours truly 🙂

9.17 — Transmission is usually the result of a single infection event.

9.13 — There are now more than 30 antiretroviral drugs

9.11 — Dr Fauci will be talking about Selected Issues in the Pathogenesis of HIV Disease, whereby pathogenesis research leads to effective interventions.

Good morning!

We’re running a little late this morning. The demonstration from Haitian AIDS activists held things up a bit.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the US National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases gets us underway this morning in the Opening Plenary.


Live blogging the Opening Plenary (#aids2010)

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9.51 — Vuyiseka Dubula from Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa is now speaking on Positive Health, Dignity and Prevention. ‘ARVs have saved many lives, including mine. Only covering 50% of the need’.

9.43 — Apologies for the delay; slight technical issue that needed sorting. Jean-Marc Delizee of Belgium/EU Commission is now speaking on the empowerment of women to say no to unsafe sex, and addressing the need for tailor-made approaches for key populations.

9.32 — I’d like to live to see all the grandchildren in the world to live their own dreams and that they don’t die before their time. This means replenishing The Global Fund. It means a disciplined, honest response to HIV which goes to those it was intended for.

9.30 — Those who live in resource-limited settings deserve the same rights and opportunities as those of us from rich countries enjoy. Indeed…

9.29 — We can achieve universal access to treatment for all, but we have to do better.

9.26 — We must reach out to those who are not here and those who are unconnected to the HIV response to get them to make small donations. We haven’t succeeded in this, and we must do a better job.

9.23 — We all have to examine our own organisations in terms of how we can lower our overhead expenditures, particularly in this economic climate.

9.19 — We should be focusing on task shifting from physicians to nurses, nurses to community health workers, wherever possible.

9.18 — Too much waste on many things in the industry — plane tickets, reports that are not read/distributed / too many expensive meetings without much impact at the local level. Money should be going into the local communities.

9.16 — Too many places were drug users do not have access to important treatment and/or prevention messages based on evidence because of political obstacles or lack of leadership within specific countries.

9.13 — We have to remind ourselves that ‘more of the same’ is not cutting it, and not good enough. We’re not doing enough ourselves to improve treatment, better integration of HIV/TB co-infection, better combinations of drugs, better prevention efforts, better scale-up.

9.12 — Last week, Dr. Goosby announced that US funds can now be used to support needle syringe programmes! HOORAY!!!!

9.11 — Suggests that Dr. Eric Goosby should get a Purple Heart for having the guts to show up at the Conference. ‘This man is your friend’.

9.09 — Argues that what we as activists need to do is elect more Democrats to The Congress in order to increase US funding for AIDS in the developing world. (That’s a great sentiment. But, there are many individuals at this conference and those who are affected most by those budgetary constraints and cuts to AIDS funding from the US who don’t have the right or luxury to vote in the US.)

9.07 — He’s attempting to support President Obama in the tough decisions he’s had to make, and arguing that ‘he is a man who keeps his commitments’.

9.05 — He’s going to address the Pepfar reshuffle. Makes the joke that the benefit of no longer being president is that he can say what he wants, although because he isn’t president no one cares anymore. 🙂

9.04 — We have to demonstrate that we can do our jobs faster, cheaper and better to justify the expenses.

9.03 — Treatment in the US costs US$10.000 / person / year. (!!!!)

9.02 — There is a choice to make. If you want to strengthen healthcare systems, you must have skilled healthcare workers, specifically individuals who can do good work at a lower cost.

8.59 — ‘The “choice” between treatment and prevention is not a real choice’. We must invest in both!

8.57 — We must replenish The Global Fund! (Yes, we do, Bill!)

8.56 — We cannot get to the end of the epidemic without spending more money and re-examining how we spend it.

8.55 — Props to social science research for understanding how and which programmes work beyond the mere science. Indeed, collaborative studies can tell us much about the cultural appropriateness of responses, and how they may be adapted to other contexts.

8.53 — Props to Dr. Paul Farmer, a fellow medical anthropologist, who has done far too much to mention here for assisting those in Haiti to gain access to healthcare through his organisation, Partners In Health.

8.52 — Partnerships that have been formed over the last 10 years are incredibly important in the responses, and how agencies such as The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The Global Fund provides 50% of funding.

8.51 — Giving props to Pfizer for reducing the price for an ARV that is the only one that can be taken for those who are co-infected with HIV/TB.

8.49 — Now, he’s switching to the state of the epidemic. Thrilled that we are closing the gap in access to treatment that existed between adults and children.

8.46 — Massive good — airline online bookers have placed a box that you click to make a contribution when making online bookings. There are small donations (user-friendly option). Bill is urging us to check these boxes. The point is to raise large amounts of money from small donations.

8.45 — Referring to the theme of the conference, ‘Rights Here, Right Now!’, evidence of progress made in the last few years is not an excuse to right to walk away from that right. Its motivation to run towards it’.

8.43 — ‘Here, there’s a lot of action to go with talk’. Thanking those of us who work in the industry. Given the challenges facing the AIDS movement (programme funding), he recognises that there is a lot to be done.

8.42 — It’s a bit like reading his book. He is thanking many, many individuals from his Foundation, as well as … well, everyone.

8.41 — He looks a little awed.

8.40 — ‘The world wouldn’t be the same without Mr. Clinton’s 30+ years of commitment’. Indeed!

8.40 — With President Bush, helped raise millions for victims of Hurricane Katrina and has been instrumental in relief in Haiti after the devastating earthquake. His commitment to Haiti has continued from his presidency to present-day.

8.37 — A glowing introduction for President Clinton. Fantastic president, and the creator of a successful NGO that has allowed 2 million people to go on ARVs. The Clinton Foundation has made 1077 commitments valued at $57 billion!

8.36 — Things are a running a few minutes late. Bill must be stuck in traffic. 🙂

Good morning!

After yesterday evenings exciting Opening Ceremony, delayed a bit by the Die-In to draw attention to funding cuts which would leave millions no longer able to access live-saving anti-retroviral treatment, we’re ready for an inspiring morning plenary session at the International AIDS Conference.

Speakers include former US President Bill Clinton, Vuyiseka Dubala of the Treatment Action Campaign, and Anya Sarang from the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice. Anya is a harm reduction pioneer from the Russian Federation and an old friend of ours from the early days of outreach work in Moscow.

Here we go!!!!

The Power of Comunitas

As I entered baggage claims at Vienna International Airport, signs of the community of AIDS activists were everywhere. For a brief moment, I was completely overwhelmed.

Thousands of us will be united this week during AIDS2010. Regardless of what we do in our working lives, regardless of where we work, and regardless of the challenges we face in that work, we share a common goal: a world without HIV. A world without stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV. A world without injustice and indignity.

By coming together en masse, we draw attention to the global pandemic which has claimed millions of lives thus far. Far too many lives. We will command the attention of those who do not live daily with the knowledge that countless many are suffering either from illness, lack of treatment or social ostracism. In this space which we occupy and journey to, we are accepted for who we are irregardless of our sero-positive status.

What is most overwhelming about this temporary community is that those of us here represent a fraction of those who daily aim and strive for a world in which the space we occupy here and now is the objective of our activism. As individuals, we may impact the lives of one or a handful of individuals and, if we’re lucky, effect positive change. As a community, we have the power to change the world in which we all live. Not just for ourselves, but for others as well. And, not simply in one city, country or region, but globally.

Because HIV touches upon aspects of society that are often taboo and is linked with behaviors deemed ‘unacceptable’ for a variety of reason, we are forced to tackle stigma and discrimination on a broader scale. Ever-so-slowly, we chip away attempting to limit barriers to understanding and acceptance. Man, woman, gay, straight, transgender, drug user, sex worker, prisoner, black, white, Latino, Asian, rich, poor or simply average. All of us are affected. HIV does not discriminate.

Yet, in this space, we are accepted regardless of any label. We are a single, united community. And that knowledge carries enormous power.

Cautious Optimism: Yuri Fedotov named head of UNODC

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced yesterday that Mr Yuri Fedotov will take over leadership of the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime, many of us involved in advocating for and institutionalising sound harm reduction strategies globally greeted the news with what can only be described as trepidation.

We at Health Connections International (HCI) are no different.

Still, we extend our sincerest congratulations to Mr Fedotov, who succeeds Antonio Maria Costa as head of UNODC. Mr Fedotov has previously served as Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. We look forward to seeing the shape of Mr Fedotov’s reign as Executive Director of UNODC.

Yet, below we detail a few of our concerns with this appointment and what lies behind our scepticism.

As outlined in a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the position of Executive Director of UNODC demands enthusiastic support for and promotion of a human rights–based approach to global drug policies, demonstrated leadership in the response to HIV, and strong advocacy skills for the adoption of a balanced and evidence-based approach to drug control and policies. There are those from the international harm reduction community who have questioned the legitimacy of a Russian candidate given that country’s past and present drug policies.

To date, the Russian Federation holds an abysmal track record on fair treatment and practices towards drug users. Extending the principles of human rights to the country’s estimated 2-3 million drug users let alone the promotion of those rights has been a daily struggle for activists for more than a decade with very little policy change visible. To illustrate this point, we make note of the fact that Russia has consistently refused to implement both proven HIV prevention measures targeted to drug users and evidence-based drug dependence treatment protocols such as opiate substitution therapy.

Equally worrisome, at the 53rd meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) a few months ago, the delegation from the Russian Federation made repeated statements to the effect that human rights did not belong in the resolutions of the CND.

In light of this, it is easy to understand why many are describing Mr Fedotov’s appointment as a ‘giant leap backwards’.

In saying all this, we at HCI do not wish to pre-emptively condemn the appointment of Mr Fedotov. After all, he is an ‘individual’ and not a ‘country’. Rather, we prefer to remain cautiously optimistic and hope that Mr Fedotov will continue the UNODC trend of moving away from policies and programmes that punish, stigmatise and marginalise drug users.

We also hope that he will stand for a balanced rights-based and public health approach to drugs policy and control. That is, an agenda that addresses the supply and trafficking of narcotics which is evidence-based and -informed. We also hope that Mr Fedotov takes the reins as a leading advocate in the promotion of human rights for those who use drugs within international drug policy discussions and decision-making.

As stated by the International Drug Policy Consortium, ‘In a time of uncertainty for global drug control policy, the new Executive Director will need to balance the increasingly divergent views of Member States in this difficult policy area, and modernise the operation of the Office to restore trust amongst donors and civil society’.

We couldn’t agree more, and hope that Mr Fedotov keeps this very much in mind.

Welcome to the My HCI Blog

Welcome to the My Health Connections Blog! We hope you find it useful and informative.

We have created this blog as a space in which to discuss various issues related to our work on strengthening healthcare systems, and assisting national stakeholders in their responses to the HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and drug use epidemics in resource-limited settings.

Here, we shall discuss issues related to epidemics as well as current events and happenings in the countries and regions in which we work—that is, the Central Asian Republics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. We also hope to highlight interesting and effective use of innovative technologies that assist responses to HIV, TB and drug use in resource-limited settings specifically.

We look forward to your feedback and welcome your ideas on how we may improve this blog.

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