AIDS conference opens in D.C. with snapshot of the disease in America

Published on July 23, 2012 at 11:48 AM · No Comments
News outlets examine where HIV/AIDS stands in America, what's being done to combat it, and where the future will lead.

The Associated Press: AIDS Conference Opens At Key Turning Point
Researchers, doctors and patients attending the world's largest AIDS conference are urging the world's governments not to cut back on the fight against the epidemic when it is at a turning point. There is no cure or vaccine yet, but scientists say they have the tools to finally stem the spread of this intractable virus -- largely by using treatment not just to save patients but to make them less infectious, too (Neergaard, 7/23).

Politico: After 22 Years, AIDS Conference Comes To D.C.
The massive International AIDS Conference convenes here this week, and hopes are running high that a long-sought goal of "a generation without HIV" may be within reach. Thousands of HIV and AIDS researchers, activists and policymakers from around the world are in Washington, and it's the first time the conference has been held in the United States in 22 years, ending a boycott of a policy forbidding U.S. visas to people who had HIV that the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) originally pushed into law (Norman, 7/22).

The Washington Post: Global AIDS Conference Rally Calls For Cheaper Medicines, More Funding
The first International AIDS Conference to be held in the United States in more than two decades opened Sunday with repeated assertions that the 31-year-old epidemic can be realistically brought to an end with more money and attention, strategically applied. The money is needed to put millions more of the world's 34 million HIV-infected people on medication, with special attention to those most at risk of getting and transmitting the virus -- male homosexuals, drug users and the poor (Brown, Shaver and Botelho, 7/22).

NBC News: AIDS Conference Opens With Eye To A Cure
Could it really be possible to cure AIDS? … It has exploded across the world -- killing 25 million people, infecting a million more every year, and moving from gay and bisexual men into wives and mothers, to their children, and among drug users. But experts think it might be possible to stop the spread and even to speak of curing the infection in those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. And they see a hopeful symbolism, as well, in the return of the giant international conference, held every two years, to the United States, where it hasn't been in 22 years (Fox, 7/22).

McClatchy Newspapers: International AIDS Conference Begins In Washington
More than 23,000 delegates – researchers, activists, advocates and policy makers – from nearly 200 countries came to the Washington Convention Center on Sunday for the kickoff of the International AIDS Conference, saying they want to work together to assess what the future of HIV and AIDS might hold. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius used the event to announce that the government has more than 150 antiretroviral drugs available through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, a globally funded plan begun under President George W. Bush (Mohamed, 7/22).

News stories look at what has changed since the last AIDS conference in the United States --

The Washington Post: Everything's Different (Almost) Since Last International AIDS Conference In U.S.
AIDS has killed 35 million people. It's caused physical pain and mental anguish for many who live with it. It's created a generation of African orphans. It's drained untold trillions of dollars from national economies and people's pockets. There's also one other way to describe the AIDS saga. It's a success story (Brown, 7/21).

The Washington Post: For Americans With HIV, There Are Many Obstacles To Successful Treatment
"The issue of how to treat patients is a done deal. We know what to do," said John G. Bartlett, 76, who watched the AIDS epidemic unfold as head of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1980 to 2006. Today, the big issues are how to find the patients, test them, get them into medical care and keep them there, provide them medicines, educate them and follow their progress. This cascade of challenges reflects both the peculiarities of this disease and medical care in the United States (Brown, 7/21).

Reporters also look at what experts at the conference are saying about the fight against AIDS --

Kaiser Health News: Greg Millett: New HIV Infections Are Down, But 'Much More' To Be Done (Video)
In this Kaiser Health News video, Greg Millett, a senior policy advisor in the Office of National AIDS Policy, tells Joanne Silberner that the president's National HIV/AIDS Strategy has improved coordination among federal agencies and that the 2010 health law will improve access to care for those living with HIV/AIDS (7/23).

NPR: Testing, Treatment Key Weapons IN AIDS Fight
Thirty years ago, we first began hearing about AIDS -- then a mysterious, unnamed disease that was initially thought to be a rare form of cancer that affected gay men. Scientists soon learned that it was neither of those things, and, in fact, it was a virus that everyone was vulnerable to. … The battle, however, is far from over. Each year in the U.S., 50,000 new cases of HIV are diagnosed. One of the hardest-hit places is Washington, D.C., which plays host this week to the International AIDS Conference (7/22).

Bloomberg: New Strategies Needed to End AIDS Epidemic, Speakers Say
New strategies are needed to take advantage of scientific breakthroughs that promise to break the back of an AIDS epidemic that last year killed more than 4,000 people a day worldwide, U.S. and global officials said. In opening remarks yesterday at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius led a parade of speakers with similar messages: The world needs to be more focused and efficient in getting therapies and preventatives to those in need…. None of the speakers, though, offered specific programs to increase global access to needed treatments (Pettypiece and Wayne, 7/23).

The Washington Post: Shift In Strategy To Treatment As Prevention For HIV/AIDS
Jerome Smith said he never got tested for HIV until it was almost too late. By the time he was checked five years ago, his immune system was so weakened that he had developed AIDS. The doctor told Smith, a D.C. government worker, that he had probably been infected for at least a decade. Smith, now 39, says he doesn't understand how his disease had been missed. In the two years before the diagnosis, he had been treated in local hospital emergency rooms for pneumonia, for unexplained fever and for a deadly bacterial infection. Each time, he underwent countless tests as doctors tried to figure out why he was sick. Not once, he said, did anyone test for HIV (Sun, 7/21).

And they also look at what is being done to test and keep specific populations from contracting the virus or spreading it themselves -- to varying degrees of success --

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