In a World AIDS Day speech on December 1st, US President Barack Obama announced that the United States is renewing “its commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic – once and for all” at an event at George Washington University organized by the ONE and (RED) campaigns. In the speech, President Obama pledged $50 million in new funding for domestic HIV treatment and care programs and set a goal of helping six million people receive antiretroviral treatment (ART) by 2013—two million more than the previous US target. At the close of this historic event, AVAC and other coalition partners including amfAR, Health GAP, ACT V and many others were recognized for their work in coalition to build momentum for the campaign to end AIDS. The speech came on the heels of November 2011 remarks by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the National Institutes of Health endorsing combination prevention and treatment as prevention. In 2012, AVAC and other coalition members will be working to ensure that President Obama’s commitments are fully realized and that other donors and developing country governments show equal leadership and willingness to fund ambitious new programs. Stay up-to-date by visiting our website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
The first meeting of Project ARM (Africa for Rectal Microbicides) was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in December. The two-day ICASA satellite meeting was initiated by IRMA (International Rectal Microbicide Advocates) and organized in partnership with AVAC. Forty delegates, including gay advocates from throughout Africa, met to chart a rectal microbicide advocacy and research agenda for Africa. Participants agreed that expanded research on rectal microbicides, anal sex behaviors and health should be prioritized for transgender women, gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and heterosexual populations in Africa. They also discussed the need for expanded communication and education efforts to raise awareness of issues and developments related to rectal microbicide research and anal health. Rectal microbicides could play a key role in HIV prevention for gay men, transgender women and other MSM. But these are still experimental products, and there are immediate sexual health needs that could be addressed through responsive rights-based programming. One basic need is lubricants, or “lube” that can be used with condoms as part of safer anal sex. The Project ARM participants decided to create the Global Lube Access Mobilization (GLAM) campaign to support increased access and availability of condom-compatible lubes throughout Africa, employing the tagline “And Lube!”. The meeting provided a safe space for gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) to publically articulate their issues and concerns. It is critical that such spaces flourish throughout the world. Unfortunately, another pre-ICASA conference meeting, Claim, Scale-up and Sustain, organized by AMSHeR (African Men for Sexual Health and Rights) to draw attention to MSM/LGBT and HIV-related issues in Africa, was shut down by local religious leaders. IRMA will release the Project ARM strategy report at the 2012 International Microbicides Conference in April.
Julie Patterson, director of capacity building for the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland and an AVAC PxROAR member provided unprecedented HIV/AIDS testimony and education to the Ohio House of Representatives Committee on Health and Aging. She was invited by the Republican Caucus of the House of Representatives. The event, which took place the week after World AIDS Day, allowed Patterson to review HIV disease, prevention, treatment and testing and to provide information on recent breakthroughs in biomedical HIV prevention research, including the HPTN 052 trial which found a significant reduction in transmission within HIV-serodiscordant couples when treatment was initiated earlier (350-550 CD4 cells) versus in accordance to national guidelines. Although the vast majority of HPTN 052 participants came from outside of the US, the trial is of great relevance for the domestic US epidemic, where “treatment as prevention” could be a potent part of a combination prevention package, supported by additional US funds (see first item.) Patterson explained that earlier treatment for HIV positive people is cost-saving, and urged legislators to support expanded ART programs with the goal of optimizing the health and prevention benefits of ART—and saving costs over the long term. For more on HPTN 052, read Patterson’s piece in Ohio’s weekly Gay People’s Chronicle entitled “Treatment as prevention, turning the tide in the AIDS epidemic”.