Journalists Say The Darndest Things…

From AIDS2008.com.

I’m in the media center here at the International AIDS Conference. Listening to a couple US reporters sitting very close to me, banter about the conference and Mexico City in general, one woman, was talking about writing a “quirky condoms story” about condoms being given out with tequila shots somewhere in Mexico City.

Isn’t that so quaint?

In another attempt at humor I suppose, she says half-giggling, “Wouldn’t it be ironic if someone contracted HIV at the International AIDS Conference?”

And there is any wonder why the US reporting on the HIV epidemic is shallow at best, and damaging to the cause at worst?

Head of UNAIDS: “What Took the CDC So Long?”

From AIDS2008.com

I just attended the press conference preceding the opening session of the IAC, which featured many of tonight’s speakers who will give (hopefully) rousing speeches about the state of AIDS, the movement, our successes and where we need to be going. The speakers at the conference gave the 2-minute version of their speech for tonight, and then took questions fromt the reporters in the audience.

Just when I was about to doze off or die of boredom, Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS was giving his final thoughts at the end of the Q&A, and he began to talk about what should be done globally. He said that “It is important for timely information to be released to the public. It’s like the CDC deciding to release this incidence data so late. I don’t understand why it took so long. They could have released it in an MMWR.”

CHAMP has been following the incidence story since last year when CHAMP executed the Prevention Justice Mobilization around the National HIV Prevention Conference. And I remember CHAMP and PJM allies catching a lot of flack for suggesting in the press that the CDC could have released the numbers sooner, and with their own internal process. It’s good to know we weren’t the only ones who thought this seemed to take much longer than was necessary.

In fact, when The Washington Blade broke the story on November 14th, 2007,they said in the lede that the CDC was “mulling over” when to release the data. They only talk about a peer-review process in their response further down in the article.

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is mulling over when to release alarming new statistics showing that as many as 50 percent more people are being infected with HIV each year in the United States than originally reported by the government.

According to AIDS advocacy groups familiar with the CDC, middle level officials at the disease prevention agency have quietly confided in colleagues in professional and scientific circles that the number of new HIV infections now appears to be as high as 58,000 to 63,000 cases in the most recent 12-month period.”

If you want to watch the Opening Session live, Kaiser Family Foundation is webcasting it at 8pm EST.

Gone Blogging: AIDS2008.com

Hey Folks I am in Mexico City for the International AIDS Conference. I am working with a US Delegation of activists coordinated by CHAMP to draw attention to the domestic epidemic here in the US. I will probably be posting stuff here on this blog, but if you are interested in know what is happening here from an activist perspective, please read the AIDS2008 blog at AIDS2008.com.

American Prospect: Best HIV/AIDS Reporting This Year!

It is hard to find good reporting on the domestic AIDS epidemic in the US that isn’t sensational, or focuses nearly entirely on individuals who contract HIV–as if it’s only their fault and that there are no policy decisions that are also complicit in driving the US epidemic. When was the last time you read a feature story that focused on the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Congress, Health & Human Services or any of the other federal agencies responsible for AIDS treatment, care, prevention, and research?

Well, The American Prospect, the liberal monthly policy magazine published not one, but TWO stories on domestic HIV policy, and both do a really great job of reporting what’s going on in terms of national HIV policy.

Kai Wright, the best AIDS reporter in the biz, has a story on AIDS in the South that shows his strength as a writer, and his enormous ease with a very complex subject as he deals with virtually every angle of the issue from history to prisons, to homophobia to government funding. He writes:

What was once considered an urban, coastal epidemic — centered in gay havens like New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles — is now a surprisingly rural, Southern one. More than half of all new infections logged between 2001 and 2004 were found in the South. Those infections are far more likely to be found among Southerners who are black, low-income, and diagnosed with advanced conditions they do not have the resources to control.

What’s being done? Adam Green’s story focuses on the work by AIDS activists in the US to push the government to have for a coordinated National AIDS Strategy. In case you didn’t know, part of Bush’s much celebrated (and highly problematic) PEPFAR prorgam is that any country applying for PEPFAR dollars must have a national strategy for AIDS prevention, treatment & care. THE UNITED STATES HAS NO SUCH PLAN. In addition, the nation’s capital has an HIV prevalence rate worse than many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Green writes:

Instead, the domestic response is built on a loosely connected network of local, state, and federal programs. Authors and activists often describe this existing HIV/AIDS programming as a safety net. But the metaphor is not quite apt. There’s only a tenuous connection between the organizations. There’s little strategic coordination and no clear goals. The result is that people who are at risk or infected don’t know where or how to access care. In 2002, an estimated half of people with HIV/AIDS were not receiving care.

For more information on the National AIDS Strategy visit their website. Also, in early August I will be in Mexico City with CHAMP at the International AIDS Conference blogging on issues pertinent to the domestic AIDS epidemic at the conference, so be sure to check us out at www.AIDS2008.com