HIV coverage: No news is bad news, some news is worse . . . we’re reading about under-reporting, misreporting, realities and responses

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NewWWRWhy is HIV underreported outside of scandals? How does it happen that the rantings of an already disgraced soon-to-be-former sports team owner can propel AIDS into headlines when scientific breakthroughs, policy, and funding that affect matters of life and death do not? That is the question this POZ commentary raises, noting that Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling’s recent outburst about Magic Johnson seems to be what it takes to get anything about HIV into the news. The commentary cites the recent Media Matters study listing major developments in efforts to confront HIV in the last year that were largely ignored by cable news outlets. The stories included the impact in the United States of the affordable care act on people living with HIV, HIV remission in a second baby after early initiation of antiretroviral treatment, and the World Health Organization antiretroviral treatment guidelines about to reach their first anniversary, targeting an “irreversible decline” in the epidemic, and making more than 26 million people eligible for treatment. When cable news outlets did cover stories about HIV, they seldom included expert input, the Media Matters study found. On a global scale, from what Science Speaks gathers, the news is worse still, with coverage ranging from incorrect and inconsistent (Ugandan Nurse Rosemary Namubiru’s conviction on negligence charges for “allegedly intentionally” trying to infect a child), to nonexistent, with little note of the proposal in the President’s budget to flat-line funding for the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief in the face of the World Health Organization guidelines. Can efforts to control the epidemic in Africa complete their life-saving mission at this point in the fight with funding that is essentially diminished? Without accurate, intelligent news from the the front lines, policy makers have little to go on.

An AIDS-free Generation: Which generation might that be? – This talk from AIDS-free World co-director and former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis is a refreshing dose of reality. Lewis, who notes that his reaction to indifference and silence surrounding the global AIDS pandemic encompasses an emotional spectrum “from rage . . . to rage,” notes the trillions of dollars spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the availability of money for corporate bailouts against a backdrop of flat-lined PEPFAR funding. “We can never seem to find adequate money for global public health,” he says. Describing the destruction AIDS has visited on communities across Africa, he adds, “The world doesn’t seem to understand that we’re still dealing . . . with a desperate plague . . . The reality is these days we’re relying on too many slogans.” If you, too, are angry, you’ll find yourself in good company, and gathering supporting points as you listen to this. If you are not angry, you will be.

An Interagency Collaborative for Program Improvement – More refreshment: While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted PEPFAR’s accomplishments when he spoke to the 2014 PEPFAR Annual Meeting in Durban South Africa, he also stressed a continuing obligation to have greater transparency, accountability and impact. As part of that effort, he called on PEPFAR and U.S. Government agencies to establish “an Interagency Collaborative for Program Improvement.” He also clarified that his proposal is not intended as “a practice in applying management buzzwords,” but “about providing better support to countries like South Africa.”

“I can improve things,” says an HIV Peer Counselor in the Dominican Republic – Although the Dominican Republic is considered to have relatively low HIV prevalence, pregnant women face rates as high as 4 percent. They need moral support, and like most people in precarious situations, financial support as well. This post from USAID’s Capacity Plus blog tells the story of a woman who, diagnosed with HIV during an prenatal care visit, felt isolated and hopeless until she began to help other women in her position. Starting as a volunteer, she received training, and finally a salary. “And when the salary arrived, thanks be to God because I needed it!” she says. “I have two children, and their father, he died [from HIV].”

A proactive idea from Nigeria – Citing an estimate that football lovers around the world use more than two million condoms a day, Nigerian Football Supporters’ Club President Rauf Ladipo suggests UNAIDS will only be giving “lip service” to its AIDS-fighting efforts, if the agency doesn’t try to get 65 million condoms to Brazil in time for the World Cup.

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