July 20, 2012

Armenia answers to the Committee, avoids subject of LGBT

Geneva 17 July 2012.  The United Nations Human Rights Committee finalized the examination of the third periodic report of Armenia today, which took place on 16 and 17 July 2012.

In some areas of the dialogue between the Committee and the State delegation, the discussionwas progressive. In others, the Committee expressed concern about the lack of information provided by the State. The delegation was often pressed by the Committee for more specific, statistically based answers to some of its questions. When faced with inquiries regarding the March 2008 post-election violence in Armenia, the delegation offered little explanation as to the lack of investigation into, and criminal accountability for, the resulting deaths.

The Committee otherwise focused its attention on issues of gender-based violence, trafficking in human beings, prison conditions, corruption in the judiciary, and discrimination. One committee member challenged the State to “put its money where its mouth is, and provide necessary funding to combat gender-based violence”. The Committee took particular issue with the State’s attitude toward members of Armenia’s LGBT community. The Committee received information that a government official previously announced that LGBT individuals were “a threat to national security.” Explanations from the State regarding the measures currently undertaken to protect the human rights of these vulnerable individuals were noticeably sparse.

Having received information from independent sources regarding the objectivity of Armenia’s judiciary, the Committee confronted the delegation with allegations that the judiciary is dependent on the executive branch, and that judges tend to have a bias toward the prosecution. The Committee was deeply concerned about reports from NGOs stating that judges operate under the notion that justice is negotiable, and can be bought for the right price.

The Committee also reminded the delegation that it has been a party to the Optional Protocol for Individual Communications for twenty years. In that time, there has not been a single casesubmitted to the Committee by an individual victim of human rights violations. As such, the Committee questioned whether the State has actually made it known to the Armenian people that this important recourse is available to them.

Armenia was given forty-eight hours to address unanswered questions posed by the Committee –indicating that, after six hours of intensive dialogue, the Committee felt it needed more information from the State. Armenia must be forthcoming about the true state human rights in the country, and ensure the enactment and implementation of its pending human rights legislation and programming. These active measures are critical to demonstrating the State’scommitment to protecting the human rights of all Armenian people.

The Human Rights Committee will make its recommendations public at the end of its session, on 27 July 2012. The archived webcast of Armenia’s review can be seen at treatybodywebcast.org.For additional information on the review of the Armenia contact: Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR): www.ccprcentre.org /

info@ccprcentre.org(Centre for Civil and Political Rights/Ashley Tucker)

July 19, 2012

19th International AIDS Conference

This year International AIDS Conference will take place in Washington D.C, US on July 22-27, 2012.

The International AIDS Conference is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. It is a chance to assess where we are, evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learnt, and collectively chart a course forward.

The AIDS 2012 programme will present new scientific knowledge and offer many opportunities for structured dialogue on the major issues facing the global response to HIV. A variety of session types – from abstract-driven presentations to symposia, bridging and plenary sessions – will meet the needs of various participants. Other related activities, including the Global Village, satellite meetings, exhibitions and affiliated independent events, will contribute to an exceptional opportunity for professional development and networking.

For more information go to AIDS2012.org

July 17, 2012

FDA approves first drug to prevent HIV infection

Dr. Lisa Sterman holds up a Truvada pill at her office in San Francisco in May. Even before the Food and Drug Administration's approval, Sterman had prescribed Truvada for about a dozen patients at high risk for developing AIDS. Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP
The Food and Drug Administration has given the first OK for a drug to prevent HIV infection.
The daily pill Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences, combines two medicines that inhibit the reproduction of HIV. It's been a mainstay in the treatment of HIV/AIDS for years, and as of today is an approved option for reducing the risk of HIV infection for people at high risk.
The drug was approved for people who test negative for HIV infection. It's supposed to be used in combination with safe-sex practices, such as using a condom, to reduce infection risk. "Truvada alone shouldn't be used to prevent HIV infection," FDA's Dr. Debra Birnkrant, said in a media briefing.
People taking Truvada should be tested for HIV infection every three months, so treatment can begin promptly if an infection has occurred.
An outside panel of experts had recommend the agency take the action after concluding that the benefits to healthy people vulnerable to HIV infection outweigh the risks, including such side effects as kidney damage and a dangerous increase in acid in the blood.
About 50,000 people in the U.S. become infected with HIV each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of new infections are in gay or bisexual men.
Birnkrant said the steady rate of new infections showed that more options are needed to reduce transmission of the virus. "Truvada for pre-exposure prevention represents another effective evidence-based approach," she said.
But the cost for prevention isn't trivial. The annual tab for Truvada ranges from about $11,000 to $14,000.
In an interview with Talk of Nation's Neal Conan in May, the National Institute of Health's Anthony Fauci, said of Truvada, that it's "an important component of the broad tool kits that we do have for prevention."
He acknowledged the risks, such as side effects, and the possibility that some people taking the drug might engage in riskier behavior because they think they're protected.
In response to a question about that from NPR's Richard Knox today, FDA's Birnkrant said studies of Truvada for prevention found an increase in condom use over time — not a drop. (Listen to Knox's story on Monday's All Things Considered for more.)
During the Fauci interview conducted shortly after the expert panel recommended FDA approval of Truvada for prevention, he said, "I agree with the advisory committee strongly that when you balance the benefits of this, making this available, to the risks, ... the benefits far outweigh the risks, although you must take seriously the potential downsides of it and be prudent in your use of this."
source: NPR