To subscribe to the newsletter click here
At the AIDS Conference in Washington D.C.
The 19th International AIDS Conference is convening this week in Washington D.C., with more than 23,000 delegates from 195 countries. It is a jamboree of activism, informational sessions, lectures on scientific advances, and meetings of all shapes and sizes. The conference is named “Turning the Tide Together.” The upbeat and optimistic mood, with distinctly less alarm than in previous gatherings, seems to reflect the broad advances that have been made against AIDS in recent years. At the same time, there is broad determination that the fight against HIV and AIDS still has a way to go. Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute in the U.S., captivated everyone’s attention in the cavernous main meeting hall on Monday morning with a stirring speech about AIDS in America. His most arresting statistic was that in the United States, black men who have sex with men have a 60 percent chance of getting HIV by the time they reach 40 years of age. In America.
For the Global Fund, the AIDS Conference is a great venue for meeting with partners and allies, and for providing information and updates. Several consultation sessions have been held about the new funding model that is being designed. Views have been solicited and discussed from a variety of sources. In panel discussions and dialogue sessions, Global Fund leaders have often been asked about the role of civil society, and have been able to explain that civil society is essential to the Global Fund’s ability to manage grants, and will not be diminished going forward. “Civil society is in our DNA,” said Gabriel Jaramillo, General Manager of the Global Fund. “That principle will not change. It will become even more real.”
Friends U.S. Names Deborah Derrick as President
On July 16, Deborah Derrick became President of Friends of the Global Fight in the U.S., and will lead efforts to educate, engage and mobilize U.S. policymakers and leaders in support of the Global Fund. Ms. Derrick served previously as a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she worked on global health programs, advocacy, grants, and collaborations with the U.S. government. Prior to her work at the Gates Foundation, Ms. Derrick was executive director of the Better World Campaign and worked as a senior advisor at the State Department and on Capitol Hill. Her experience matches her passion for helping the Global Fund. “I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact these programs are having,” she said. She added that she is determined to let U.S. policymakers know “exactly how good their investments have been.”
After just one week on the job, Ms. Derrick helped host a glittering, high-level dinner on Capitol Hill to highlight U.S. leadership in the fight against HIV and AIDS, timed to coincide with the AIDS Conference. Bill Gates came and spoke, as did Gabriel Jaramillo, Global Fund General Manager, and Jonathan Klein, Friends Board Chair and Co-Founder and CEO of Getty Images, Inc. Several U.S. Senators attended, including Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, as well as several U.S. Congressmen, including Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins also were there. An impressive crowd, and a convivial mood. We liked how Mr. Gates put it: “I maintain that the Global Fund is still one of the best investments the world and our foundation have made in responding to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.”
A Novel Approach to Circumcision
Circumcision comes with controversy. Protesters outside the AIDS Conference held up signs saying “Circumcision is Torture.” Last month, a German district court ruled that circumcision of infants and young boys for religious reasons is a crime. But the growing consensus in the global health world is that male circumcision is an effective way to help limit the spread of HIV. It is being discussed in several venues at the conference this week. One person in particular kept adding her voice to the fray. Tzameret Fuerst is an energetic entrepreneur who is pushing her company’s device that offers a non-surgical and relatively painless circumcision. Tzameret approached us with her sales pitch. We found it compelling. Her device is simple. With a plastic ring and a special rubber band, it removes foreskin in the same way that a clamp removes the little stump on a newborn’s umbilical cord. Without pain, the extra skin dies over the course of a few days, darkens, and then can fall off. There is no surgery, no cutting, no sutures, no bleeding. The procedure is safe, and can be performed by a nurse in five minutes or less. We were impressed. Making a sensitive procedure simple and pain-free can only be a good idea, in our view. Tzameret is a true believer, and speaks with the passion of the converted. We were curious about her motivation. “Every 16 seconds, someone dies of AIDS. If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what is,” she said. The device is called PrePex, and it was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More important, it has been endorsed by health authorities in countries that are actively promoting circumcision as a method of reducing the spread of HIV, like Rwanda. Tzameret is trying to get her device adopted more broadly, and argues that it can help countries in Africa achieve the goal of circumcising 20 million men by 2015. That could save 4 million lives, in Tzameret’s estimation. “You don’t get more high-impact than that,” she said.
Friends Africa Voices Support For Greater Health Funding
Friends of the Global Fund Africa have, as always, been working tirelessly in their efforts to draw support for treating and preventing disease all over the continent. At a recent Africa Forum of Former Heads of States and Government, which was held on the side-lines of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Friends brought together several African statesmen, diplomats, ministers of health, and development partners to discuss the need for greater funding for health.
At the meeting it was recognized that, 12 years after the Abuja commitment to dedicate 15% of national spending to health, only 6 African countries have met the target so far. It was agreed that increased allocations are needed by African Governments to the health sector, as well as political and financial commitment to the Global Fund from African Governments and the private sector. The gathering agreed on several specific recommendations: Building political and financial commitments toward attaining health-related Millennium Development Goals; advocating and implementing continental frameworks and coordinating or leveraging different regional platforms and institutions; strengthening financial support for research and development of new preventive technologies, vaccines, and affordable pharmaceuticals; finding ways to cost-effectiveness and quality-assurance in pharmaceutical products; garnering support from UN agencies and other partners to provide technical support and knowledge generation for shared learning; and setting predictable sustained financing of cost-effective programs as a priority area of collective advocacy and action.
To subscribe to the newsletter click here