Monday, July 10, 2006

HIV/AIDS in Eurasia: Context, Policy, Research

Thursday, June 8, 2006 3:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Craig Calhoun, President, Social Science Research Council
Jennifer Cooke, Co-director, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Robert Heimer, Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale University; Director, Connecticut Emerging Infections Program, Yale Office

Senator Bennett’s presentation focused on three core concepts that would alleviate HIV/AIDS in Eurasia. The first step is to facilitate transition to democracy. The second step is to promote the interaction of a free growth economy. The third step is to increase security, including the dismantling of their nuclear capability and decommission of their nuclear weapons.
The second portion of Senator Bennett’s speech focused on the demographic dangers in parts of Eurasia. The trend across Europe is one of a shrinking population, onset by a low birth replacement rate. To sustain a country’s population, the replacement rate must stand at 2.1 births. In Russia and Italy, it is at 1.3, and in Germany it is at 1.7. This danger can be offset by high immigration rates, however there is very little immigrant flow in to the majority of these Eurasian countries, due in large part to a deep ethnic and cultural divide.
Craig Calhoun’s presentation encouraged the exhortation of AIDS statistics to the public in an effort to raise awareness and deepen the sense of urgency in battling this widespread disease. His studies have shown that the AIDS pandemic is less and less a single unified phenomenon as it has spread across the globe. It is not only of a media condition afflicting millions of individuals but a social condition destroying families. The AIDS crisis requires not only urgency and patience but the promotion of a strong relationship between social sciences and public health issues in an effort to mobilize and improve social knowledge and research.
Jennifer Cooke’s presentation focused on her work on the Task Force on HIV/AIDS in Africa. The program was developed before PEPFAR to bring HIV/AIDS to the forefront of political policy. The first phase of the program charted US attitudes to see their willingness in addressing and alleviating AIDS in foreign assistance. The second phase sent senior delegates, influential and well known in foreign affairs, to travel abroad and champion the cause of HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness.
Dr. Robert Heimer’s spoke about his research on HIV transmission among injection users in Russia. The HIV epidemic is up from 1000 to 325,000, in large part because of drug use. He studied the homemade heroin drug chornaya against commercial heroin and found that because of the strong nature chornaya, it actually reduced the spread of HIV in contaminated syringes. His final assessment concluded that homemade drugs are unlikely to have contributed to the spread of HIV in Russia.

by Rebecca Bonardi

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