News

Conference to Press AIDS Battle

Universal Action Now is the theme of the upcoming International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.  From Washington, VOA's William Eagle reports that among the factors that will be discussed at the conference are a lack of political will to allocate funding, and discrimination against those who are HIV positive.

Five years ago, a gang of men stoned to death South African AIDS activist Gugu Dlamini.  Her offense: she announced on a Zulu language radio station that she was HIV-positive. 

Violence is just one result of the stigma surrounding the disease and its carriers.  This case and similar stories of abuse prompted Justice Edwin Cameron of South Africa to attend the Mexico City gathering this year. 

Cameron, who is HIV-positive, will lead a plenary session about one of the factors fueling stigma - the criminalization of those living with HIV.  

The South Africa Supreme Court of Appeals justice says 11 African countries [including Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia] have statutes that can be used to prosecute HIV-positive people who do not inform their partners of their infection - even if they have not spread the virus. 

Justice Cameron says the result is up to 30 million Africans who are likely carrying the virus, fail to get diagnosed. "The point I will make at the conference is that those statutes, apart from their very broad and vague wording, are very bad for the central issue of the epidemic, which is getting treatment to people.  With criminal laws like that on the statute books, people are not going to want to be tested.  Why would you if you are going to expose yourself to prosecution?," he said.

Cameron is just one of 17 guest speakers to lead discussions on topics that are discouraging people from seeking treatment or gaining universal access to HIV medicine.

Other speakers include Malaysian AIDS Council president Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman.

She will address the conference on the legal obstacles to ending HIV transmission among people who inject drugs, a leading cause of the spread of AIDS worldwide. "Prevention needs to be strengthened ...  It is about evidence-based HIV prevention like needle exchange programs and authority [to initiate] opiate substitution programs ..."

Dr. Adeeba explains that two non-addictive medicines, methadone and bupenorphine, can be given to wean drug users from heroin.  Outreach workers can also provide them with clean needles. 

But she says criminalization of drug use discourages some from seeking treatment.  It also makes those who are HIV-positive more vulnerable to blood-borne infections like hepatitis-C.

She wants a debate over U.N. and national impediments to these strategies, such as zero tolerance policies that ban needle exchanges or the use of non-addictive opiate substitutes to prevent the spread of HIV among drug users who use needles.

The Buenos Aires based International Aids Society based in is conducting the Mexico City conference.  Its president, Pedro Cahn says the meeting will also address a charge made by some - that the attention to HIV treatment and prevention weakens underdeveloped health care systems. 

Dr. Cahn rejects the charge. "This is important because some voices have been raised claiming that we are putting too much money into the AIDS struggle and are weakening health-care systems, which is absolutely not true ...  African health-care systems were not OK before [the AIDS epidemic] and have become better after the opening of clinics.  [Now] people have at least one point of care in areas where nothing happened before."

He says activists at the conference are likely to encourage the integration of reproductive health services with treatment for illnesses that further weaken immune systems infected with the HIV virus, like tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.  They say the effort would not only strengthen national health-care systems, but help meet the U.N. goal of ensuring universal access to AIDS prevention and treatment by 2010.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs