The Zero Declaration, stigma remains while funding flows, and more

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The Zero Declaration: This was posted in July on the eve of the 19th International AIDS conference, and its call is still open  —  “to focus the world’s struggle against tuberculosis  on achieving zero TB deaths, zero new TB infections, and zero suffering from TB.” You can sign on as an individual or as an organization. Every country in the world could accomplish this goal against a preventable and curable disease, but the main driver of its spread is political inaction, the declaration says.

Uganda: Decades later, HIV stigma lingers: Three decades into Uganda’s AIDS crisis, shame and secrecy still accompany the illness, with a recent survey showing about 22 percent of men and 18 percent of women in the country agreed that people living with HIV “should be blamed” for their disease, according to this IRIN article. The views were revealed in the country’s 2011 National AIDS Indicator Survey, released last week, which also noted that the country’s HIV prevalence rose from 6.4 percent in 2006 to 7.3 percent in 2011, the article says. The article quotes activists observing  that stigma and hostility attached to men who have sex with men as well as sex workers continue to interfere with efforts to address the epidemic, with anti-gay legislation still pending in the nation’s parliament. The article notes that the National AIDS Indicator Survey does not mention sex between men, even though a 2008-2009 study showed HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men was, at 13.7 percent, about double the prevalence of the general population.

U.S. gives Uganda $10 million for AIDS responses: In the meantime, this New Vision story out of Uganda tells of $10.75 million in three new five-year PEPFAR grants to faith-based institutions in the country. According to the story, the Uganda Episcopal Conference-Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau received $5.4 million to provide “comprehensive, quality HIV prevention care and treatment services,” the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau got $2.4 million for HIV-care and support services, and the Children AIDS Fund Uganda got $2.9 million to provide “comprehensive services beyond basic HIV care and treatment” including support groups, dental care, school fee assistance, discordant couple support, income-generating activities and community outreach. The Children AIDS Fund began its global AIDS efforts in Uganda in 1988 with abstinence promoting programs, according to its website, which also has links to statements against harm reduction practices, and in favor of partner notification as policy. The Uganda Episcopal Conference has taken a stand against the Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill’s death penalty and imprisonment provisions, urging, instead support for “repentance” and “conversion” of homosexuals, but has praised the government’s “effort to protect the traditional family and its values,” stating “Church teaching remains that homosexual acts are immoral and are violations of divine and natural law.”

Turning the tide on HIV in women and children: This Clinical Infectious Diseases article looks at the new model for preventing mother to child transmission — and keeping mothers alive — initiating lifelong antiretroviral therapy in all HIV-positive pregnant and breast-feeding women, regardless of their CD4 count, concludes: “it is no longer time to argue against or for this approach,” but cautions efforts must be made to document safety, feasibility and acceptance of the programs.

Are we failing children?: In the push to keep children from being born infected with HIV, will those who are born infected be forgotten? That is one of the questions asked in this commentary, which looks at the transformation of “PMTCT” — Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission — programs into lifelong treatment programs for HIV-positive women, in the September Lancet Infectious Diseases.

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