Realizing the promise, an uneven epidemic, reaching prisoners . . . we’re reading about what ending AIDS will take

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NewWWRWhere are we in realizing the promise? In the interests of accountability, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research and AVAC last year produced An Action Agenda to End AIDS, a series of steps that would have to take place over the next four years to cut the yearly number of new infections to below that of the numbers of people on antiretroviral treatment, and put the end of the AIDS epidemic within sight. The most recent publication is an update on the status and progress of those steps. Where faster, more comprehensive efforts to get treatment to those who need it has taken place, the measurable result of that “tipping point” is being reached, the report says. But globally, that’s not the case — with 2012 seeing 2.3 million people becoming infected with HIV, while 1.6 million began treatment of HIV. Donors who back up words with dollars, strengthened systems to prevent mother to child transmission, to get medical circumcision services to older men, to address the needs of men who have sex with men, people involved in sex work, and injecting drug users, and more frequent and specific reporting on the results of all of those are some of the steps needed, the report finds, to keep the promise of ending AIDS.

AIDS is still an issue: Picture a country where more than a million people live with HIV, with 200,000 unaware they have the virus, with even more not in care, and an estimated 50,000 new people getting the virus yearly. If you pictured a well-resourced, highly developed country, you got it right, because the above scenario is that of the United States, today — 32 years after the AIDS epidemic was first noted here. In the nation’s capital one in seven black men is living with HIV, men who have sex with men account make up more than half of those newly infected, and the poorest people continue to be hit hardest by the epidemic. “So why should anyone care?” this Huffington Post Op-ed piece by Dr. Kenneth Mayer, Medical Research Director of Fenway Health, asks. The answer of course is that we now know more than ever before that it doesn’t have to be that way. Mayer wrote this piece noting that Sept. 27 marks Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day each year, and that being aware of one’s own infection status is the first necessary step to addressing both the personal and global impact of the epidemic. Here, the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — offers increased coverage of HIV screening for most Americans, he notes.

PEPFAR and Prisons: This article looking at a talk on a “high level meeting on prison conditions” by Zambia PEPFAR representative Kristie Mikus is encouraging, particularly if it turns out to be the first in a series. “Because the vast majority of prisoners will return to their families and communities, the lack of services for people in prisons places all of society at risk,” she is quoted saying. The article notes that the prison in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, was built to hold 260 people, but now holds 1,112 inmates.

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