Daily News Blog: Wednesday at the AIDS 2010 Conference in Vienna

Canada's kiosk at AIDS 2010 is vandalised following their refusal to endorse the Vienna Declaration

Georgia became the first country to endorse the Vienna Declaration today, a significant step forward for evidence based drug policy. A drop in the rate at which HIV infections are increasing in the country can be expected if this endorsement is followed through with drugs policy reform. On the same day, the USA and Canada, the latter of which has said that it will not endorse the Declaration, have been found to “lead the world” when it comes to prosecuting people who infect others with HIV. In yesterday’s Irish Independent, Jim Clarken of Oxfam warned against exactly such policies, saying they “discourage those who fear they may be HIV-positive from being tested and receiving treatment".

Around the world, media outlets gladly reported the story of the development of a new microbiocide gel that could help block the AIDS virus, with pieces appearing in the print edition of The Sun, in a The New York Times editorial, an Independent leader comment and other media outlets worldwide. News that male circumcision could be used as a tool to fight AIDS in Zimbabwe also received good coverage, as did the less welcome news that the HIV rate in the over-50s in Britain is up by 60%, which received coverage on the BBC news website, in most British papers, and on Bloomberg news in America. These news items somewhat overshadowed reaction to UNICEF figures released yesterday which showed that Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the only region in the world in which the number of HIV-infected people is still growing. The spotlight was thus drawn away somewhat from the link between HIV infection and intravenous drug use, and there had been little media coverage by Wednesday afternoon of the First Lady of Georgia's endorsement of the declaration.

Meanwhile, the Barcelona Reporter carried an interesting article on how the prevalence of HIV is decreasing in Spanish prisons due to harm reduction programmes initiated in the 70s and 80s. The most interesting article of the day, though, was by Dr. Christian Jessen in the Evening Standard, with the somewhat confusing headline “Methadone isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment”. The piece basically challenges the government body responsible for treatment strategy, which is proposing strict limits on how long heroin addicts should be allowed to stay on methadone.

The US edition of the Reuters news agency was happy to report today that drug users are not being effectively targeted in the fight against HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. As we saw yesterday, Reuters America are less willing to discuss intravenous drug use in relation to the AIDS problem closer to home. Nevertheless, this is the first time during AIDS 2010 that we have seen the US edition of Reuters discuss HIV in relation to intravenous drug use. It is, however, time for Reuters to recognise that drug use is a major part of the reason why 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV in the US and new infections total more than 56,000 annually, reported in The Huffington Post today in an article backing opt-out testing in Massachusetts.

We eagerly await further discussion as well as reports on Georgia's groundbreaking support for the Vienna declaration in tomorrow's media.