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For Immediate Release

UCLA Hosts PHR Town Meeting on Global and Local AIDS on October 23

Cambridge, Mass - 10/21/2008

(Los Angeles) Earlier this year, the US approved $48 billion for global AIDS. A few weeks later the Centers for Disease Control revealed that HIV is spreading in the United States far faster than was previously thought.

On Thursday at UCLA, experts will hold a town meeting sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), UCLA Program in Global Health, and AIDS Project Los Angeles to discuss the current state of efforts to combat the AIDS pandemic both internationally and here in the United States-what has succeeded, what has failed, and what must happen now. Speakers include US Representative Howard Berman (D-CA); Craig Thompson, the Executive Director of AIDS Project Los Angeles; and the Honorable Dr. Eloida Tumwesigye, a Ugandan medical doctor, Parliamentarian, and outspoken AIDS advocate.

The town meeting will take place on October 23, from noon to 1:30 pm at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, 757 Westwood Plaza, Tamkin Auditorium (Room B130) on the UCLA campus.

PEPFAR (The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) was reauthorized in July, 2008 --at $48 billion--for US efforts to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria abroad. The expanded program (known as PEPFAR 2) now includes Latin American countries; PEPFAR 1 had focused mainly on Africa.

In August, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that new HIV infections in the US have escalated from 40,000 annually to 56,300--with numbers in the African-American, Hispanic and gay communities skyrocketing. People of color are disproportionately affected, with rates per 100,000 persons of 83.7 among Blacks and 29.3 among Hispanics, compared with 11.5 among whites, while 53 percent of total infections are attributed to men who have sex with men (MSM). Advocates are calling on the next president to develop what the US asks of other nations it supports in combating AIDS: a national strategy to achieve improved and more equitable results.

Advocates are calling for a National AIDS Strategy to address the problem.

"The US is at a crossroads—we know how to save lives, and we have made great strides in fighting AIDS in Africa. We now have the opportunity to build on our accomplishments and lessons learned by fully funding present and future PEPFAR programs. Ensuring the right to health for all requires that we address the social inequalities fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially among women," said Pat Daoust, MSN RN, PHR's Health Action AIDS Campaign Director.

"In the US, the debate about where to direct scarce resources must cease, and a commitment to adequately fund all aspects of combating HIV/AIDS in impacted communities must follow," said APLA Executive Director Craig E. Thompson.

"We are in a difficult time economically and the temptation might be to cut back on foreign assistance or how much money we spend to prevent disease. This is not the time to shortchange our international efforts, because they are just beginning to pay off. And we simply need to get ahead of the epidemic in the United States. All HIV infections are preventable and we need the resources to do a better job," said Thomas J. Coates PhD, UCLA professor of medicine.

According to UNAIDS, 75% of young adults with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women and girls, who are especially vulnerable to HIV infection because of their low social status. PEPFAR 2 supports the implementation of programs that enhance the status of women, potentially giving them more power in social relationships, and thus helping them avoid HIV infection.

If fully funded, PEPFAR 2 also promises to prevent 12 million HIV infections and treat three million people over five years. The reauthorized program made several key changes from PEPFAR 1, including a focus on women and AIDS-though much more must be done to protect the human rights of women.

Speakers:

  • Congressman Howard Berman (D-California), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
  • Honorable Dr. Eloida Tumwesigye, member of parliament and chair of the Committee on HIV/AIDS and Related Matters of Uganda; Patron of the Action Group for Health, Human Rights, and HIV/AIDS (AGHA), PHR's partner in Uganda.
  • Gail Wyatt, associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, Semel Institute at UCLA.
  • Thomas Coates, associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute , director of the UCLA Program in Global Health and advisor to PHR's Health AIDS Action campaign.
  • Craig E. Thompson, executive director of AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Physicians for Human Rights: To follow PHR's trip, visit PHRinCalifornia.Org

For 20 years, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), based in Boston, MA,
has advanced health and dignity by protecting human rights. As a founding member of
the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PHR shared the 1997 Nobel
Peace Prize.

UCLA Program in Global Health

The UCLA Program in Global Health partners with academic institutions in developing countries to advance prevention, policy, and clinical research for HIV/AIDS and other diseases in all regions of the world. The program works with its partners in developing countries to integrate treatment and prevention of HIV, implement innovative prevention programs, stimulate the implementation of beneficial policies and laws, address gender inequity, and train the next generation of scientists in the United States and both scientists and advocates in developing countries to continue this essential work.

AIDS Project Los Angeles

AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), one of the largest non-profit AIDS service organizations in the United States, provides bilingual direct services, prevention education and leadership on HIV/AIDS-related policy and legislation. Marking 25 years of service in 2008, APLA is a community-based, volunteer-supported organization with local, national and global reach. For more information, visit APLAorg.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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