World conference: Cautious optimism emerges on HIV/AIDS
Paper Edition | Page: 12
Amid convincing indications that the world is closer in its goal to make HIV/AIDS a treatable disease and amid a growing number of facts that say that the deaths caused by the infectious virus are also declining, thousands of people from across the globe started a 6-day conference here on Sunday to press world leaders to do more in maintaining momentum to end the epidemic.
US President Barack Obama, who paved the way for Washington to host the conference after he lifted the ban against people with HIV/AIDS from entering the US in 2010, was not scheduled to attend the meeting.
Obama went to Colorado on Sunday to meet with the victims of the Batman shooting. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, were among prominent speakers at the forum, along with Bill Gates and music superstar Sir Elton John.
This is very likely the first time in the last 30 years that an aura of cautious optimism emerged in an international meeting on AIDS, which has killed more than 34 million people worldwide, mostly in Africa. The number of fatalities attributed to the disease have been declining since 2010, after the massive introductions of antiretroviral drugs at affordable prices for treatment and prevention measures in Africa and other developing nations.
US health authorities have approved the use of the Gilead Sciences’ Truvada drug for HIV-negative adults at high risk to be infected by the virus. According to Reuters, the drug aims to keep the virus under control by stopping its replication in the blood. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recommended the drugs for preventive measures.
Meanwhile, in their declaration, expected to be signed by the 25,000 participants, they reminded the international community on the urgency to maintain the momentum in the global war against the world’s most dreadful and complicate diseases.
“Now, through scientific advances, and societal, political and human rights gains, we have discovered that it is possible to assemble and deliver a package of proven strategies, which, if taken to scale, can turn the tide of AIDS […] But we must scale up our resources and efforts to use the tools we have today to drastically curb new infections and improve health of tens of millions of people with HIV/AIDS. Millions of lives will be saved,” read the declaration.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is active in Indonesia, pointed out that “HIV prevention has been expanded to millions, including half the world’s HIV-positive pregnant women in need of medicine to prevent transmission to their children.” The majority of the funding was covered by the organization, it said in the statement.
The UN urged the world to drastically increase the funding for AIDS from US$16.6 billion in 2011 to $25 billion in the next few years.
Meanwhile the UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe said that: “We have broken the trajectory of new infections, with a worldwide decline of 20 percent since 2001.”
World Bank President Jim Yong-kim said that global efforts to eliminate the disease have shown significant progress. “It is hard to say that there is any one moment when the tide began to turn. The truth is that we have been turning back the tide of AIDS step by painful step, for 30 years.”
Indonesia apparently did not send a significant number of delegates to the meeting, although AIDS is growing rapidly in several provinces in Indonesia, including Jakarta and Papua.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.