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Africa/Global: Not Yet "End of AIDS"
July 26, 2016 (160626)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
At the 21st International AIDS Conference in South Africa last week,
"optimism faded as delegates arrived to news that donor countries
had reduced global HIV funding by more than $1 billion from 2014 to
2015. ... Nearly 20 million people are [still] in need of
antiretroviral therapy. [and] nearly half of the $44 billion cost
could be unfunded between 2016 and 2020." - Washington Post, July
Overshadowed by the U.S. presidential campaign and by acts of
terrorism around the world, the 21st International AIDS Conference
was held in Durban, South Africa earlier this month. Sixteen years
after the previous International AIDS conference in Durban in 2000,
which marked a turning point in international action on AIDS, there
were successes to celebrate. In 2000, the only people receiving life
securing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in Africa and other
developing countries were accessing medicines through clinical
trials. The few that were rich enough purchased life through private
healthcare. Sixteen years later, 17 million people across the world
receive ARVs, mostly through public health care systems. This
accomplishment is unprecedented, and UNAIDS has laid out the goal of
putting "an end to AIDS."
But there were also dire warnings of the danger of reduced
international commitment to confront the continued death toll.
Africa, and in particular South Africa and neighboring countries in
Southern Africa, continue to be the epicenter of the pandemic.
Worldwide, the reality is that only 51 percent of people know their
status and of the 37 million people living with HIV, only 17 million
are on treatment. Almost one in five South African adults are living
with HIV, and the percentages are even higher in Botswana, Lesotho,
and Swaziland. And, noted International AIDS Society president
Linda-Gail Bekker, "there is a horrible funding gap we have to
address. We had so much money when we didn't have the tools. Now we
have the tools and we don't have the money."
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains one essay by South African AIDS
activist Mark Heywood, and interviews with UNAIDS executive director
Michel Sidibé and International AIDS Society president Linda-Gail
For an excellent series of maps, tables, and charts on the current
status of HIV/AIDS in Africa, visit http://www.afri-dev.info/ - Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/hhzaln9
For coverage of the Durban conference by South Africa's Daily Vox,
For the Washington Post article quoted above, go to
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on health issues, visit
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++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
The response to AIDS has shown another world is possible
Daily Maverick, July 19, 2016
http://www.dailymaverick.co.za - Direct URL:
[Mark Heywood is Executive Direction of Section27 and an executive
member of the Treatment Action Campaign]
We live in a nasty, fragmented, divided world, where hatred is more
and more ruling the roost. Glorious bastards who have been pushed
beyond the pale of civilised behaviour are on a killing spree. Their
intention is to provoke new wars and civil wars where person fights
person on the basis of differences based on race, or religion or
A gleeful arms industry has found a new market for drones with
bombs. The indiscriminate 'fightback' against terror frequently make
matters worse. Ironically groups like ISIS are aiming to push people
into the hands of bigots like Trump, Marie Le Pen and Nigel Farage.
They want more violence against marginalised people. They want
racial and religious civil wars.
It's a zero-sum war game.
While reports of these horrors washed across our TV screens, the
21st International AIDS Conference began in Durban. Sadly, the
energy and idealism that is evident here risks being eclipsed by
global instability. Yet, in the AIDS activist movement and the 30-
year response to AIDS, we have seen glimpses of another world;
another way of living and loving, dying and doing business.
It is extraordinary.
Sixteen years ago the International AIDS conference first came to
Durban. At that point, the only people receiving life securing
antiretroviral (ARV) treatment in Africa and other developing
countries were accessing medicines through clinical trials. The few
that were rich enough purchased life through private healthcare.
Sixteen years later, 17-million people across the world receive
ARVs, mostly through public health care systems. This accomplishment
is unprecedented in the history of any medicine. Seventeen million
deaths have been averted. Although activists are rightly critical of
UNAIDS' (http://www.unaids.org) talk of the end of AIDS, the fact
that an end can even be discussed and that it is theoretically
possible indicates just how far we have come.
How did we come so far?
People who stood up for their human rights achieved this. Activists
In the 1980s AIDS began its deadly rampage as an epidemic of
recrimination and prejudice. Stigma is by no means over. Yet, the
way in which people with HIV have stood up for each other has gone a
long way towards breaking the stigma. Solidarity with people most at
risk has won greater acceptance and recognition of sex workers,
understanding of difference in gender and sexual orientation and the
rights of drug users, prisoners, migrants.
Where once AIDS was marked by total hatred, there are now
significant pockets of respect for love and diversity, solidarity
and empathy, in every country in the world. A long way to go, yes,
but a start.
Other profoundly important things have happened. Once upon a time
almost every poor person with HIV was denied life by pharmaceutical
companies intent on amassing vast profits from essential medicines.
Activists shamed drug companies, challenged them in court, exposed
their corrupt practices. Prices tumbled. As a result different
business models began to emerge, ones that could make smaller
profits from meeting the needs of larger numbers of people. Prices
tumbled and tumbled.
Activists confronted the whole model of intellectual property
'rights' and by doing so were able to push back the WTO Agreement on
Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, an 'agreement' that
had been forced on developing countries in 1995 at the height of
capitalist triumphalism. As a result a massive market opened for
generic companies based in India in particular. If similar
challenges were mounted around drugs for cancer or other causes of
illness millions more lives are there to be saved.
Learning how to make a market out of genuinely meeting needs and
human rights is something other corporates must learn, including for
decent food, housing and a hundred other of life's necessities. That
battle must still be joined by other advocates, that wisdom still
acquired by a short-sighted business community.
So, AIDS is about AIDS. But it's also about so much more than AIDS.
It's about justice and social justice. In the words of Edwin
Cameron: "AIDS has taken us on a journey of light."
In the weeks before this conference I warned that the job is only
The global statistics remain frightening. According to UNAIDS:
- There are 1.1-million deaths due to AIDS a year;
- There are 5,700 new HIV infections a day;
- Epidemics of TB and MDR-TB run largely unchecked.
My fears were not unfounded. As we sit in our padded seats, or
rather as we march, sing, argue, meet, learn from each other,
debate, shout, advocate, commiserate and occasionally cry, it's
becoming clear that this glimmer of hope risks being snuffed out.
Conferences like this that refocus human rights activism, where
politicians come to account to people, might be the last kick of a
In activist meetings a very different picture is emerging to the
optimistic one that government officials, ours included, wanted to
make the AIDS story. There are medicine stock-outs in many
countries. Sex workers and drugs users are humiliated, imprisoned
and sometimes murdered. Poor people in rich countries are being left
behind by the artificial segmentation dreamed up by some bright
spark in the World Bank that declares certain developing countries
'middle income', ignoring the local context of inequality,
corruption and severe deprivation.
Try telling the 12-million hungry people in SA or 25% unemployed
that ours is a middle income country. "Dream on", they will reply,
"we would be happy if it was a 'some-income' country, rather than a
Human rights respecting countries like South Africa are silent on
the human rights abuses by our economic allies in countries like
China, India and Russia. Attacks on civil society organisations and
activists are growing. In India, the Lawyers Collective an
organisation that has shone a light for human rights for 35 years
and 15,000 other NGOs are under attack.
Finally donor funding from developed countries for preventing and
treating HIV and TB is declining fast. As right wing governments
rise in the West and as the unwinnable 'war on terrorism' consumes
ever greater resources, the appetite for matters-just is declining.
If we are to meet the target of universal access to ARV treatment
UNAIDS has announce that there is a funding gap of $7 billion a
year. But apparently taxpayers in developed countries feel that they
have done enough now.
My answer to that, dear US Ambassador Gaspard and others, is to
appeal to you that your governments try a little harder to talk to
your taxpayers. Show your citizens how their investments in others'
lives have brought us half way across the river to the "end of
AIDS". Appeal to them to continue their largesse. Explain to them
why their investment in AIDS is something they should take proud
ownership of, how it has been an investment in humanity, health
systems and social fabric. It has saved millions of lives. Tell them
the job's not done. Tell them the world will be safer for it.
Try also to persuade them that today's way to win the war on
tomorrow's terrorism is in large part with love and respect for
human rights, solidarity and empathy, inclusion rather than
If we do not arrest these developments the response to HIV risks
evolving once more into one based on market calculations about
profit and investment frameworks rather than fundamental human
rights. We will never come back to Durban to celebrate.
The question we have to ask, the question you have to ask, is
whether we will allow this recession?
There are 18,000 people at this AIDS conference. We are
0.00000000000000000000001% of the world's population. We are
0.000000001% of the 37-million people still alive with HIV in the
world. We have a huge burden on our shoulders. But we also have the
power of human rights law, of advances medicine and scientists, of
morality, of love. In the words of the Deputy President Cyril
Ramaphosa, who opened the conference, "We must throw ideas at each
other, not stones. It is through human action that we will end this
So, will this conference be the last kick of a dying horse?
It depends on you.
Step by step: The road to ending the AIDS epidemic
By Sophie Cousins
Devex, 18 July 2016
http://www.devex.com - Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/jrfz3p8
Michel Sidibé has a big job ahead of him. By 2020, the executive
director of UNAIDS wants 90 percent of people living with HIV to
know their status, 90 percent of people who know their status to
access antiretroviral treatment, and 90 percent of people on
treatment to have suppressed viral loads.
While achieving these 90-90-90 goals would set the world on course
to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030--in line with the Sustainable
Development Goals--the reality is that only 51 percent of people
know their status and of the 37 million people living with HIV, 17
million are on ART. As the 21st International AIDS Conference opens
this week in Durban, South Africa, activists are calling for
treatment for all.
Meanwhile, HIV infections among adults are not on the decline. In
fact, infections are on the rise across some regions.
While there are promising new prevention tools such as pre-exposure
prophylaxis (PrEP), it's not yet widely available in many settings,
particularly for key populations.
And all this is happening while funding for response is on the
decline, with more emphasis on countries most affected by HIV to
finance their own responses, as many transition to middle-income
Devex sat down with Sidibé at AIDS2016 to discuss the road ahead.
Here are some highlights from that conversation:
Q: UNAIDS has set the very ambitious 90-90-90 targets to be achieved
by 2020. There's 17 million people out of 37 million living with HIV
on ART. What needs to be done to scale up people's access to ART?
We have been ambitious because during the last five years we've
been able to double the number of people put on treatment, which
means that countries were not overwhelmed by the problem and they
were able to define their strategy, to reach people and make sure
that treatment was available. The biggest challenge I personally
feel will be this one: the health systems. The huge number of people
[receiving] treatment is [shedding] light on the inefficiencies of
our health systems and the capacity of the health system to absorb
and to be able to scale up quickly, more than they have been able to
If we don't have a shift in the service delivery approach--to think
about strengthening the community, reinforcing the interface between
the last service provider and the community, and bringing civil
society and others to become providers of services--it will be very
difficult for us. That's why I'm calling for 1 million community
health workers to be implemented really quickly.
[Secondly], financing will be critical. What I'm seeing right now
has scared me, if we continue to harbor the flattening and reduction
of funding. We cannot lie to each other. I cannot see how Malawi,
Zambia, even South Africa can get to 6 million people on treatment
without any financial support. We need to continue to call for
global solidarity. I think financing will be a key issue.
[Thirdly], how we will reach hard-to-reach people--those key
populations who are today representing 35 percent of new infections?
If we don't have a strategy that can really quicken the pace and
reach them and get them treatment services, then our ambitious goals
will not be achieved.
Q: A recent UNAIDS report found that new HIV infections among adults
have stalled, failing to decline for at least five years. In eastern
Europe and central Asia, new HIV infections rose by 57 percent
between 2010 and 2015. What role do you think PrEP can play in HIV
prevention and how can you expand its use among countries that are
We are completely supportive of PrEP. We are working with
countries to try and introduce PrEP in countries such as South
Africa among sex workers. We are [also] trying to see how in Eastern
Europe and Central Asia we can start pushing to make sure they can
have the appropriate policy reform which can help them to target
people who inject drugs so it can reduce infections. I think they
are not closed to that [idea], even though we face the dilemma that
we continue to believe that harm reduction programs should be put in
place, that people should not be criminalized, and that people
should not be facing prejudice and exclusion.
Even if with PrEP, if you cannot come for services, you cannot get
that is the trade-off we need to manage properly--not
just making sure that a pill becomes the magic response but
restoring the dignity of people, making sure they are not hiding and
not discriminated against. There's a tendency to think that with
PrEP pills will help us to resolve issues of infection. That's true,
but if you don't reach people, if you have a series of bad laws that
are not removed, it will be impossible for us to implement because
the impact will be little.
Q: There's insufficient coverage of harm reduction programs across
the globe and policies that criminalize people who inject drugs. The
United Nations' target to reduce HIV transmission among people who
inject drugs by 50 percent by last year was missed. How can UNAIDS
better advocate for harm reduction programs?
A good example is China: It was [previously] zero tolerance for
people who inject drugs previously. What we did, was really bring
the leadership of China to really understand the evidence--the
science and the strategy information--coming from other countries.
China today has the biggest harm reduction program in Asia. I think
groups that are put on those programs are close to zero new
infections. So it means that the pragmatic approach of China helped
to completely change the face of the epidemic among drug users.
And there's a lot of uncertainty around funding for AIDS response in
the future. How will UNAIDS advocate for funding for key
We are working closely with PEPFAR who in New York announced $100
million for key populations. I think it's a catalytic fund and, for
me, that's what we need, to have the courage to say "these are
targeted funds" [that] will help us to see how to better reach those
people with a community network. I think it will certainly bring
different modalities in the future--how to finance those groups and
how to support them--because until now they were part of a package
Having the courage to say that we have $100 million behind you and
want to succeed, that really could completely change the way we can
leverage [the funding] to scale up. We will see a lot of community
groups who will start to be more vocal because they can get small
amounts that help them to demonstrate that they can have an impact
if they are given more resources.
Q: Given that only 51 percent of people know their status, what role
do think self-testing is going to play in the future? How can we
increase its outreach?
I think we need to completely change our approach to testing.
It's good to go for routine testing and make sure that we make
testing more convenient. Self-testing can therefore play a very
important role, on one condition: we need to think about our service
delivery approach. It's not possible to have self-testing when you
don't have a different health system, which can be really big not on
just the health system per se but a system for health. We need to
think about systems for health--the community approach, so we have
community health workers, a subsystem of health, which will be able
to really deal with this self-testing [and] go door-to-door because
they are trusted, have the capacity and are close. But, if not, we
cannot tell people to go self-test ... It will fail completely
because again we'll have a lot of people who will test positive but
will not have the ability to access services--they will be scared
and they will not trust anyone.
What we need to think about in this period is how we electrify a
different type of communication approach. Most young people are
complacent. They don't see people dying of AIDS. So we have a bulk
of young people that need not just to be protected, but becoming
actors of transformation in terms of prevention. That is, for me, a
Aids Conference 2016 - the Gains, the Gaps, the Next Global Steps
The Conversation (Johannesburg), July 22, 2016
By Linda-Gail Bekker, University of Cape Town
As the 21st International AIDS Conference wraps up in Durban, South
Africa, Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, incoming International AIDS
Society President, talks to The Conversation Africa health and
medicine editor Candice Bailey about what was achieved and what
still needs to be done.
Q: What are the three interventions or innovations that stand out at
the conference in terms of taking the fight against HIV
There has been exciting work about how we do treatment better to
make sure we get to the 34 million who are infected. And that's
absolutely critical. We have to reach those 34 million people but we
know that health systems, particularly in the sub-Saharan region,
are struggling. So there was some wonderful work on differentiated
models of care, how we can do business more effectively and
efficiently and ways we can do the steps in the cascade more
And I've loved some of the testing innovations. Addressing all the
steps from testing is critical.
Secondly I'm passionate about primary prevention but I think we've
got some gaps on how we can do it. I'm a great proponent of daily
pre-exposure prophylaxis and I really think we should roll it out
because it works. But I'm very excited about the prospect of what's
coming down the road in terms of less frequent dosing for preexposure
Number three is a fresh approach to adolescents. This conference has
reinvigorated the notion that we have to get adolescents to the
table. We have done well, I think, in getting adolescents to be
really well represented. And it works. You feel their voice.
The message I have heard here is that we need to have an integrated
approach. We can't just talk HIV treatment or just HIV prevention.
It has to take into consideration structural issues, behavioural
issues, rights, access -- a lot of issues. And I think it becomes a
model of how we really look after our adolescents around the world
and HIV is a great catalyst within that.
Q: Based on the discussions at the conference where are the gaps in
the global HIV response?
At the moment it's money. There is a horrible funding gap that we
have to address. We had so much money when we didn't have the tools.
Now we have the tools and we don't have the money. I feel desperate
In 2000 we missed opportunities because we didn't have our systems
and our thinking right. I'm taking collective responsibility but
there was a leadership gap and we lost lives because of that. Here
we stand now and if we don't act in the way that we should, we will
have lots of lost lives and infections that we don't have to. And I
don't want that on my record.
When we get help from Sir Elton John, Prince Harry, Princess Mabel
from The Netherlands and Charlize Theron to shine a focus on this we
are eternally grateful. We need help from everyone to carry the
message that the job isn't done. Otherwise we will miss the moment
and we will have regrets. And I don't want to be in that camp.
I am very pleased that the Replenishment of the Global Fund
Conference is being held in Canada because I think the Prime
Minister of Canada is really showing that he can get the job done.
Justin Trudeau's a great example of moving forward when he needs to
move forward and doing uncomfortable things when they have to be
done because it's right. I have a sense that he does what's right.
So I'm excited about that because I think that's important.
We have to keep showing people that it's not only the right thing
and the compassionate thing and the humane thing but that it makes
good financial sense. We are bleeding where we don't need to bleed
in terms of finance. And if we can shut it down earlier we will do
the world a favour.
Q: What is the message that is coming out of this conference?
The job is not done. We have tools that can be deployed; we have
a lot of work to do. We have the energy but this is not the time to
not have the resources. It's a collective global effort. And we're
excited. Durban has reenergised the whole sense of community and
engagement. Now we need the rest of the world to get on board. And I
think we can do it. The optimism that I have felt here is real. But
the reality is that if we don't move forward from today that
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