Winning against HIV but running out of drugs? Making gains, while rights lag? We’re reading good news, bad news from the front lines

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NewWWRReports with conflicting headlines landed in the inbox on the same day in the last week, leading to the question: are advances in the fight against HIV victory, or progress? Good news followed by bad news leads to cognitive dissonance, but can also point to gaps.

Namibia winning HIV fight: Good news! Nigeria reduced HIV infections among children by 58 percent since 2009, this article from the Namibia government-owned New Era newspaper says. That news, pulled from a UNAIDS report that included news of declining child HIV infections across seven sub-Saharan African countries, led to the headline. But the report, on the Global Plan towards elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive (known, for short, as simply “Global Plan”) also reveals that overall, only half of all breastfeeding women living with HIV, or their children receive antiretroviral medicine to prevent mother to child transmission of the virus. And it notes that improvements in early diagnosis of HIV in children and access to treatment is still urgently needed.

Namibian: No ARVs for Otamanzi’s HIV Patients: This article brings the bad news of antiretroviral drug stockouts at four clinics, but notes that the Ministry of Health “could not confirm or deny the shortage of ARVs at the said clinics.” So while it leaves unclear the extent, or cause of the reported problem, it points to a potentially still weak link in record keeping and supply chain management –  that has been noted in PEPFAR evaluations, as the program prepares for “transitions” to greater “country ownership,” and that has the potential to derail other effective efforts.

HIV infections in Kenya drop by forty percent: Great news! An official quoted in this brief story attributes a steep drop in new infections in the last five years to prevention programs. The bad news comes in the last line of the story, which notes “infection rates are higher among sex workers, fishermen and homosexuals.” Then the next story raises the question of whether the full extent of the “higher rates” can be counted.

Identity Kenya: Attacks on LGBTI, Sex Workers Worrying: Bad news for human rights, and bad news for the chances of advances in HIV prevention and treatment reaching those who need it most. This report, which details assaults on gay men, male sex workers, and transgender women, notes that the violence appears to have been sparked by media reports quoting National AIDS Council data of numbers of “homosexuals” in the area where the attacks took place. This article cites the recently released Amnesty International report Making Love a Crime documenting institutionalized and societal violence against sexual minorities in Africa.

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