Health News of Monday, 16 July 2012
More than 20,000 participants and 2,000 journalists from 200 countries are expected to convene at the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre in Washington, D.C. of the USA for this year’s XIX International Conference on AIDS.
The biennial conference from July 22 – 27 is the largest regular conference on any health or development issue, and predicted to be a landmark event in the history of HIV and AIDS both in the United States and globally.
For more than 25 years, the International AIDS Conference has played a central role in the global response to AIDS, marking the evolution of the epidemic and serving as a forum for the presentation of scientific advances.
Prior to the event, the US Embassy in Ghana, organised a web chat for civil society groups working in the area of HIV and AIDS and selected journalists who would be participating in the conference to equip them with more information and an opportunity to ask questions on US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
PEPFAR, which is America's initiative to combat the global HIV and AIDS epidemic and now part of the Global Health Initiative, has since 2004 committed more than 30 billion dollars to fund the AIDS epidemic.
Dr Felix Osei-Sarpong, Public Health Specialist in-charge of HIV Care and Treatment of USAID, outlined the progress achieved in Ghana through direct PEPFAR support, saying 47,000 HIV-positive individuals are receiving anti retroviral treatment (including TB/HIV), as some of the success stories.
Representatives of civil society groups present complained about stigmatisation, which was still rampant in some communities and called for a concerted effort to ensure that communities get the right information and education to reduce stigma.
They also expressed concern about dealing with condom usage in secondary schools, which has become a source of great worry, while teenage sex workers were gradually becoming an issue.
Ms Deborah von Zinkernaquel, Principal Deputy Global AIDS Coordinator in the Office of the US Global AIDS office, who outlined the operation of PEPFAR, raised the issues of stigma, treatment and other sexual issues adding that, all these needed to be addressed holistically.
She expressed PEPFAR’s commitment in extending its support services to all in need, especially Africa, to ensure that the world becomes HIV free.**