Long-term planning needed for fight against AIDS epidemic – UNAIDS
Real success in the global response to the AIDS epidemic can only be achieved if a long-term perspective is fully integrated into planning and action, the head of the United Nations AIDS programme said at a conference taking place in Rio de Janeiro this week.
The 3rd International AIDS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment, which runs from July 24 to July 27, brings together leading AIDS researchers, activities and policy makers to discuss recent advances in HIV/AIDS research and ways of translating research findings into practice.
“As we take emergency actions to ensure universal access to HIV prevention and treatment, we must also establish systems critical to achieving longer-term solutions, such as vaccine and microbicides,” Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, said at conference.
“We need to ask if our planning will make a difference in five years – as well as in 20 years,” he added.
While in Brazil, Dr. Piot will also meet with government officials and civil groups. Brazil was the first developing country to achieve universal access to HIV treatment, as well as prevention and diagnosis services, and the government guarantees access to free antiviral therapy to anyone with advanced HIV infection requiring treatment.
Later on Tuesday, UNAIDS said that results of a trial examining the potential link between male circumcision and a lower risk of HIV acquisition showed promising protective effects, but it also emphasized that more research was needed to confirm that the findings could be reproduced and whether or not they had more general application.
The trial was carried out in Gauteng province in South Africa among men aged 18-24 and was funded by the French Agence Nationale de Recherches sur le SIDA (ANRS).
The findings from two ongoing trials in Uganda and Kenya, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, would be important to clarify the relationship between male circumcision and HIV in differing social and cultural contexts, UNAIDS said.
It also said that recommending male circumcision services as part of HIV prevention programmes would be premature. However, there is heightened interest from governments and the general public in male circumcision in a number of African countries, and news of the trial results presented today may increase demand for male circumcision services, it added.
At the opening of the conference on Sunday, Stephen Lewis, the UN Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa questioned the results of the recent G8 Summit when it came to addressing the AIDS pandemic, stating that an “insurmountable burden” of over $200 billion of debt was crippling the battle against poverty and the pandemic. Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10 per cent of the world’s population, but is home to more than 60 per cent of all people living with HIV.
Mr. Lewis also challenged scientists to engage in a campaign of advocacy and he stressed the need to eliminate gender inequality in the fight against AIDS.