Top 10 HIV-related stories making headlines in 2011

IRIN news recently published the 10 top popular stories that appeared throughout 2011 as they relate to HIV and AIDS:

1. HIV and AIDS turned 30 in 2011! The first case of HIV was reported in 1981 in the USA.  Since then, some 30 million people have died from AIDS related diseases, another 34 million are living with HIV and there are approximately 7,000 new infections each day. In relation to treatment, an estimated 6.6 million people globally were placed on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) as at December 2010, but there remained some nine million people who qualified for antiretrovirals (ARVs) but did not receive them.

2. Predictions of “the end of AIDS” in which randomised controlled clinical trials revealed that ARVs could in fact help to control the transmission of HIV by up to 96 percent.

3. A blow to funding for HIV and AIDS. The ‘global financial crisis’ impacted on the worlds commitment to those living with HIV and AIDS. At a meeting in Accra, Ghana of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria a decision was made to suspend the 11th round of funding for the period 2011 to 2013. The Global fund is responsible for about 70 percent of HIV treatment in developing countries.

For the period 2002 and 2008, spending on HIV and AIDS rose more than six-fold before levelling off in 2009. A report in 2011 by the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS found that funding fell from US$7.6 billion in 2009 to $6.9 billion in 2010 – the first time funding has decreased in more than a decade of tracking HIV and AIDS spending.

4. Disappointing news for women: Some studies on HIV prevention trials using drugs and/or placebo for women were abandoned since they failed to show effectiveness or prevent HIV infection in the women participating in the trials.

5. Yet more political HIV “blunders”: in South Africa, the premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, suggested that those who knowingly infected others with HIV should be charged with attempted murder, and called into question the role of the government in providing treatment for people who contracted HIV through “irresponsible behaviour”.

In Uganda, health minister, Christine Ondoa, allegedly claimed in an interview with a local newspaper that she knew of three people who had been cured of HIV through prayer.

6. Anti-gay legislation in Africa – In Uganda, a new ‘anti-gay bill’ was presented by parliament that would make “repeat offenders” subject to the death penalty.

In Nigeria the Senate voted to criminalize gay marriage, gay advocacy groups and same-sex public displays of affection, which activists fear will drive gay Nigerians further underground and away from HIV prevention and care services.

Western responses in 2011 in response to the rise in anti-gay sentiment included: in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to withhold aid to countries violating the rights of their gay citizens; in the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed that the Obama administration would use its foreign policy to combat efforts abroad to criminalize homosexual conduct. In Malawi, gay rights activist Gift Trapence was arrested but after a speech by Clinton agreed to review its anti-homosexuality legislation.

7. Threats to generic ARVs –referred to as the ‘pharmacy of the developing world’ India produces the majority of ARVs used throughout the developing world. The EU in 2011 continued to push for tougher intellectual property rules in its negotiations with India over the terms of a free trade agreement.

Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, is challenging the patent laws in India with the hope of preventing the extension of drug patents for minor changes in existing products (“evergreening”). This means that if successful, India will be forced to grant more patents on drugs than they currently do, which would make it much more difficult to provide cheaper drugs to those who need them most.

8. Yet more disappointing news for women: The Lancet published a study that linked HIV transmission with contraception. The study reported that HIV-positive women who use Depo-provera – the ‘hormonal shots’ that many women in Africa rely on to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and help to control Mother to Child Transmission – doubled the chances of transmitting HIV to their partners. It has been suggested that this may be as a result of the thinning of the vaginal mucous membrane and changes to the genital tract.

9. First pharmaceutical signs with the Medicines Patent Pool – In 2010, the Medicines Patent Pool was established by UNITAID to encourage innovation and improve access to HIV medicines through voluntary licences on medicine patents that will enable generic competition and the development of new products. In 2011, Gilead Sciences became the first pharmaceutical company to sign a licensing agreement. This means that Gilead’s allows for the production of several of its HIV medicines.

10. New HIV targets – The UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS announced its new goal of “Zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths.” The declaration adopted at the meeting aims by 2015 to double the number of people on ARVs to 15 million, end mother-to-child transmission of HIV, halve tuberculosis-related deaths in people living with HIV, and increase preventive measures for the “most vulnerable populations”.

US President Barack Obama promised to provide HIV treatment to six million more people globally by 2013, which is an increase of two million on the previous target.


For more information see the full article at PlusNews: the global online HIV and AIDS news service of the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)