A report by Vivek Jain, MD, assistant adjunct professor, UCSF HIV/AIDS Division at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center:
Session Report- Hillary Clinton Morning Plenary 7/23
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a rousing speech to the conference on July 23. She began by reflecting on the last US-based [International AIDS Society] conference in 1990 and proudly welcomed the delegates back to the United States.
She reviewed the tremendous progress in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and highlighted the U.S.’s role in this work, culminating in [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)] and now a move from an emergency response to a more sustained response. She then reiterated her call for an AIDS-free generation, which has become one of the rallying cries of the conference and a strong organizing theme.
Reaffirming the U.S. government’s commitment to end AIDS, she said to the doubters: “I know I’m preaching to the choir, but we need the congregation to keep singing and lift up their voice to everyone who’s outside.”
[Clinton] then moved through her vision of the tools that will be needed to achieve an AIDS-free generation: more patients accessing HIV therapy, combination prevention efforts including circumcision, and stronger activities to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
Towards these ends, she then announced four specific new funding programs:
- First was an $80 million investment to investigate and support innovative approaches to ensuring women who are diagnosed with HIV get access to treatment programs and ART.
- Second was a $15 million program in implementation research to identify specific interventions for higher risk groups.
- Third was a $20 million challenge fund to support country-led plans to expand services.
- Fourth was a $2 million fund to promote and strengthen civil society institutions.
She also announced new U.S. Government partnerships with Walgreens (to promote adherence) and Medscape (to promote education). Lastly, Clinton announced that Dr. Eric Goosby will be releasing a blueprint by World AIDS Day in December 2012 outlining the future directions for PEPFAR and the U.S. national response.
Overall, the speech was well received, and represented a good mix of reflection, call to action, and specific new U.S. government commitments and plans to achieve our stated goal of promoting an AIDS-free generation.
Session Report – Sheila Tlou Morning Plenary 7/23
Sheila Tlou of Botswana delivered a morning plenary address on July 23 called “Turning the Tide in Affected Countries: Leadership, Accountability and Targets.”
She is the UNAIDS Director of the Regional Support Team for Eastern/Southern Africa. Tlou framed her call for more leadership first by reviewing some historical examples of stepping forward: the Botswanan leaders who supported PMTCT after ACTG 076 showed ART could prevent vertical transmission.
She also highlighted leaders’ efforts to promote the “B+” therapy option for pregnant women to avoid vertical transmission and to preserve their health, saying: “option B+ is the way to go, and no woman should settle for less.”
Tlou chided global decision makers for havingdiscussion about the cost implications of option B+, saying “if men were the ones getting pregnant, would we be wondering about the costs? I don’t think so. Women have the right to be alive, and to stay alive.”
This clarion call was followed by another call for serious expansion of sexual education, both to promote safe sex practices, to destigmatize sex, and to promote a healthy vision for sexual activity.
Tlou then discussed PREP and stated quite correctly that since Truvada “was tested in populations in our region, therefore populations in our regions should receive support to implement it.” Otherwise, we will be at risk for having perpetrated guinea pig science.
Lastly, Tlou spoke in general terms about the need for good in-country governance, elimination of corruption, accountability and transparency and emphasized how important these will continue to be in the fight against AIDS.
Photo of Plenary Session with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton © IAS/Ryan Rayburn – Commercialimage.net