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March 31, 2011
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From the President: Escalating the Fight against Global HIV/AIDS and TB

Tuberculosis (TB) killed an estimated 1.7 million people worldwide in 2009, including 380,000 infected with HIV, and remains the number one killer of those living with HIV globally. Yet only 28 percent of TB patients were tested for HIV and accessed HIV prevention, treatment, and care services in 2009.

Each March, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the threat posed by TB on World TB Day, held this year on March 24. The day underscores the work still needed to address one of the world’s leading infectious disease killers, which has formed a deadly synergy with HIV/AIDS over the last decade.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the IDSA Education and Research Foundation, the Center for Global Health Policy was created in 2008 to support and promote U.S. efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and TB around the world. This project promotes the effective use of U.S. funding to address these epidemics by providing scientific and policy information to policymakers, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the media. The Center provides an important mechanism for IDSA and HIVMA members to share their expertise and experience with policymakers and federal government leaders about the U.S. response to global HIV and TB.

A major Center undertaking is Science Speaks, a highly popular blog featuring news, interviews, analysis, and updates from Center staff about the latest developments in TB and HIV/AIDS. In a recent post, Kevin M. DeCock, MD, director of the Center for Global Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), discussed the global research agenda for TB, including how best to implement new technology such as the Gene Xpert rapid TB test.

The Center also organizes visits so that physicians from developing countries can meet with policymakers on Capitol Hill to show how global health programs are having an important impact. In August 2010, the Center hosted congressional staff members on a trip to South Africa and Zambia to visit U.S. government-funded programs addressing HIV and TB to provide them a firsthand view of the important strides these programs are making and the areas where additional support is needed. The Center plans to host another congressional delegation trip to Africa this summer.

In just one example of the critical support U.S. funding provides, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) directly supported the distribution and administration of lifesaving antiretroviral treatment for more than 3.2 million men, women, and children worldwide in the 2010 fiscal year (FY), an increase from less than 2.5 million people treated in FY 2009.

The Center also publishes timely issue briefs. A June 2009 report detailed the scope of HIV/TB co-infection worldwide and called for an aggressive U.S. response from policymakers. (To download the report as a PDF, click here.) A December 2010 report focused on the use of medical male circumcision for HIV prevention. The brief, available online (PDF), makes a strong case for rapidly expanding these services in countries with high HIV prevalence, low rates of male circumcision, and a predominantly heterosexual epidemic. Studies in sub-Saharan Africa have already shown that circumcision can reduce a man’s chance of acquiring HIV infection through vaginal sex by up to 60 percent and can have a substantial impact on HIV incidence.

For more about the Center’s recent activities, read the related articles in this issue of IDSA News and check out Science Speaks, the Center’s blog, for regular updates. To become involved in the Center’s important advocacy work, please visit the Center’s website for more information.

WHO will highlight another critical public health issue on World Health Day, April 7, which this year will focus on raising global awareness about antimicrobial resistance; the theme is “No action today, no cure tomorrow.”  IDSA will mark the day with a press conference and a congressional staff briefing in Washington, D.C. to highlight the problem and the urgent need to take action to address it. Check the IDSA website in April for details about these events.

Looking ahead, IDSA leaders will identify and discuss additional potential opportunities and roles for the Society in global health during the June Board of Directors meeting.
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