Kerry Cullinan, The Mercury
The HIV/AIDS sector has been under attack recently by some health practitioners who argue that too much money is being spent on HIV/AIDS, to the detriment of other diseases. However, Craig McClure, the executive director of the International AIDS Society (IAS), said it was unfortunate that the criticism that HIV was distorting health systems came at a time when success is finally in our hands. HIV has spawned an interest in health systems that was never there before, and is helping to drive the expansion of public health systems globally, to reach all those who need help, said McClure. Society president Pedro Cahn described HIV as an exceptional challenge considering that almost 7 000 people a day were being infected.
That needed spectacular funds to mount an adequate response. There is no doubt that in order for us to achieve the 2010 universal access targets, health systems must be further strengthened, said Cahn. This will require an increase in resources, including additional resources for commodities like drugs and diagnostic tools, basic health care infrastructure and the training and retaining of the health care workforce. With the life-long interventions brought by antiretroviral therapy, the success of HIV/AIDS programmes around the world is dependent on health systems strengthening, he said. Some exciting new scientific evidence will be discussed at the conference. This includes the claim by the Swiss Federal AIDS Commission on HIV/AIDS that people with an undetectable viral load for more than six months and no sexually transmitted infections should be considered non-infectious.
According to the Swiss commission, sex without condoms may pose no realistic risk of HIV transmission from people with an undetectable viral load and no sexually transmitted infections. However, on the negative side, research on monkeys - which shows that their antibodies do not help to control simian immunodeficiency virus - is expected to raise more debate about the search for an HIV vaccine for humans, says McClure. Two prominent South Africans, Judge Edwin Cameron and academic Linda Richter addressed plenary sessions of the conference. The conference will be attended by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, UN Aids executive director Peter Piot and the director-general of the World Health Organisation, Margaret Chan. - health-e News