Policy and Research Leaders Headline amfAR Capitol Hill Summit
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, was among a stellar line-up of speakers at an amfAR-sponsored briefing on Capitol Hill, April 30. In an impassioned address, Dr. Kim touted the enormous positive impact the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has had on the global economy, attributing financial growth to improved health among those hardest hit by AIDS.
But he warned that money alone will not be enough to effectively tackle the pandemic: “Institutionalized discrimination is one of the underlying issues that drives this epidemic. Too many people around the world today face discrimination based on their sex, their age, their race, their religion, or sexual orientation. Institutionalized discrimination is bad for societies and it’s bad for economies, and we can’t tolerate it.”
Titled “Making AIDS History: From Science to Solutions,” the conference was organized by Dr. Susan Blumenthal, amfAR’s senior policy and medical advisor and former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General. Its aim was to review recent progress in the fight against AIDS in both research and policy, discuss the impact of human rights issues on the global AIDS response, and to chart a roadmap for ending the pandemic.
“For the first time in history, we are at a tipping point towards reversing the pandemic,” said Dr. Blumenthal. “We are the first generation that has the scientific, the technological, and the public health tools to prevent, treat, and cure AIDS. Now we must commit the necessary resources so that we can soon reach the time when children have to turn to their history books to learn that there was ever a disease called AIDS.”
In an engrossing interview with Judy Woodruff, co-anchor and managing editor of “PBS NewsHour,” Dr. Paul Farmer reflected on his experiences providing treatment and care to people living with HIV/AIDS in Haiti and Rwanda. As chief strategist and co-founder (with Dr. Jim Yong Kim) of Partners in Health, Dr. Farmer successfully pioneered a model of community-based care among resource-limited communities in both countries.
“When you’re focusing not on what’s good for the doctors and nurses, but on what’s good for the patients,” said Farmer, “you move all the care to them [via community health workers], so that patients are not inconvenienced, so they don’t have to travel miles for treatment, and that’s when you see a turnaround."
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi thanked amfAR for its years of unwavering service to the fight against AIDS and praised the Countdown to a Cure for AIDS initiative, saying (of a cure for AIDS), “wherever it happens, it will not have happened without the dedicated, determined, persistent leadership of amfAR.”
Other notable speakers included Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, Ambassador Deborah Birx, M.D., giving her first address as the new U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; Douglas Brooks, recently appointed head of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health; Senator Tom Harkin; Congressman Jim Himes; Regan Hofmann, policy advisor at UNAIDS and an amfAR trustee; and Gabriela Isler, Miss Universe 2013.
“I’ve been involved in HIV/AIDS activism for almost 30 years now, and I’ve never seen so much optimism in the world of AIDS research,” said amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole, announcing the launch of the Countdown to a Cure initiative. “But we must remain relentless in our commitment to do whatever has to be done with whatever resources are available to support all efforts needed to find a vaccine and a cure.”