Deadline: World AIDS Day, Hopes and Fears

by Jonathan Cohn | December 1, 2011

[with contributions from Matt O'Brien and Darius Tahir]

Thursday was World AIDS Day. I meant to write something substantial about it but didn't have time to do the research. I’ll try to come back around to the topic soon. It's an important story -- and a complicated one.

In the last few years, the U.S. has led the effort to distribute HIV drugs around the world, saving literally millions of lives. Bono and Harold Pollack (also a rock star, at least in the policy world) make this point today. Both go out of their way to cite President Bush’s contributions to the cause. Harold notes that he’s not exactly a fan of the former president. Neither am I. But when it comes to fighting HIV, Bush deserves a lot of credit.

That’s the good news. The bad news? That progress is now in jeopardy, thanks to spending cutbacks from around the world. Alanna Shaikh, writing for UN Dispatch, explains:

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria just canceled its next round of grants. The WHO is laying off staff. Bilateral donors are cutting aid to global health. Instead of breaking the cycle of HIV transmission, developing nations will be lucky if they can protect the people they already have on treatment.
That may sound dramatic, but look at the numbers. The Global Fund asked donors for $20 billion. It received $11.5.  Everyone from Germany to the USA reneged on their pledges of support.
The impact on the ground is immediate. I have spent the last few days attending emergency meetings where we struggle to save HIV programs in this grim new reality. Everyone, from ministries of health to community NGOs, are getting ready to cut programs if there’s no money to continue them.

In a speech at George Washington University on Thursday, President Obama, who has also made the fight against global disease a top priority, pledged to deliver anti-retroviral drugs to more people – and to boost funding for treatments at home. The video is above.

Reuters reports that HIV advocates were pleased. Among other things, this new money would apparently not require congressional approval. But I gather there's a lot more still more to do -- and not enough will, here or abroad, to do it.

Elsewhere:

More on World AIDS Day: Ezekiel Emanuel makes the case for global health programs. Yes, they work. But HIV isn't just an international epidemic. It's still a domestic one, as well. To read more about that, I recommend an op-ed by Edward Cervantes, a student at Mills College in California, who was diagnosed with HIV one year ago:

While it is important to recognize that HIV is a global pandemic and that some continents do not have equal access to life-saving medical advances, let us not forget about those in our own community who live and struggle with HIV. Action is needed not just globally, but nationally and locally too.
In the United States today, more than 6,500 people in 12 states are on wait lists to receive life-saving medications. Each state runs an AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) that provides uninsured and underinsured people with HIV medications, which can cost up to $19,000 a year if paid out-of-pocket. But as we know, we are living in tough times. People have lost jobs and healthcare coverage. Demand for ADAP funds has increased, but funding has not. In Florida alone, 3,213 positive people are on wait lists.

Oh, and if you want more information about HIV and the policies for fighting its spread, the Kaiser Family Foundation has a web page devoted to the subject.

Gimme that voodoo? A 0.1 percenter explains why trickle-down economics is a failure and middle-class consumers are the real job creators. Via Bloomberg View.

There's more to inequality than just taxes: Matt Steinglass takes a look at the Netherlands, where taxes are just as progressive as the U.S., but inequality is markedly lower 

First he told them to look not at the facts, but at the meaning of the facts. Then he said the facts had no meaning: On why prosecutors will resist apparently-exonerating DNA evidence from the New York Times Magazine: “Why prosecutors sometimes fight post-conviction evidence so adamantly depends on each case. Some legitimately believe the new evidence is not exonerating. But legal scholars looking at the issue suggest that prosecutors’ concerns about their political future and a culture that values winning over justice also come into play. ‘They are attached to their convictions,” Garrett says, “and they don’t want to see their work called into question.’”

Pharma needs a pain-killer: Matthew Herper on why there’ll never be another Lipitor (blockbuster-wise).

Shocking news from the world of medicine: Study confirms that doctors are more likely to refer patients to get a scan if they themselves own a scanner. Naturally, they’re more likely to refer said patients to themselves.

Don't pay student athletes: Did Jonathan Chait write this item exclusively for the purpose of touting Michigan’s win over Ohio State? I can’t be sure. But it’s an interesting argument anyway.

Video of the day: "Streets of Philadelphia," by Bruce Springsteen.

Bruce Springsteen - Music - More Music Videos

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