IRIN reports on the HIV/AIDS response in Guinea-Bissau, writing, “One year after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria reduced funding to the Guinea-Bissau government body in charge of coordinating HIV prevention and treatment activities, health centers outside the capital are facing medicine shortages, patients are not receiving the treatment they need, and the transport of patients to treatment centers has been cut.” According to the news service, “The Global Fund stopped most of its funding to the Secretriado National de Luta Contra le Sida (SNLS), the government structure in charge of coordinating the HIV response, at the end of 2011, because of poor performance management and a lack of transparent fiduciary controls.”
Access to Health Services
The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday “voted in favor of a draft resolution supporting universal health coverage, signaling the importance of universal health care to the international development agenda,” the Washington Post’s “World Views” blog reports (Khazan, 12/12). “The U.N. resolution calls on its members to ensure they have health systems that avoid significant direct payments at the point of delivery and a mechanism to pool risks among the population to avoid catastrophic health care spending and impoverishment as a result of seeking care,” the Guardian notes (Tran, 12/12).
PRI’s “The World” this week features a series examining the challenges of addressing cancer in the developing world. The series, produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, includes radio stories, multimedia features, an interactive map, and infographics, according to the main page. The radio stories examine cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S. (12/3). In an interview with the series’ principal reporter, Joanne Silberner, Lancet editor Richard Horton said, “Cancer is certainly being under-recognized and neglected in low- and middle-income countries. … I think cancer is slowly becoming more recognized but there is a long way to go before it gets the attention it so urgently needs (12/3). On December 5, PRI will host a Facebook chat from 10am-4pm EST that will feature Silberner and cancer researchers and advocates (12/4).
“Yellow fever has killed 164 people over the last three months in Sudan’s Darfur, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday,” Reuters reports. According to a joint statement, “Between 2 September and 29 November, the total number of suspected yellow fever cases has reached 677, including 164 deaths,” the news agency writes. Aid agencies provide almost all available health care in Darfur, “where rebels took up arms in 2003 complaining of neglect by the central government,” according to Reuters. Sudan’s health ministry and the WHO have vaccinated more than half of a targeted 3.6 million people in the region for the disease, the news agency notes (Dziadosz, 12/3).
“Many currently believe that U.S. domestic entitlements are too large, but disregard the fact that the PEPFAR program has created a new class of moral entitlements overseas — in the form of four million and counting people receiving U.S.-supported life-sustaining AIDS treatment in low- and middle-income countries around the world,” Mead Over, a senior fellow at the CGD, writes in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog. He continues, “But I think the U.S. has just as much fiduciary and moral responsibility to anticipate and plan for its current and future AIDS treatment entitlements overseas as it does for its much larger Social Security and Medicare entitlements at home,” and adds, “Moving forward, I suggest that the U.S. should figure out how to convert the moral entitlements it has already granted into credible long-term enforceable commitments which are more analogous to the commitments it makes to Social Security beneficiaries in the U.S.” (11/30).
BBC News examines HIV/AIDS in Iran, writing, “In the 2000s, Iran became known as the region’s leader in the fight against AIDS. Each year, the government allocates millions of dollars to prevent and manage the disease, and government-sponsored clinics across the country help battle it.” The news service continues, “Yet several HIV/AIDS activists and Iranians infected with the virus argue that efforts to control the epidemic have suffered major setbacks in recent years, mostly because of the weakening economy and the widespread stigma of the illness.”
U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Wanda Nesbitt writes in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, “Here in Namibia, the United States, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is working closely with the people and Government of Namibia to prevent new HIV infections, provide lifesaving HIV treatment to those who need it, and help put an end to AIDS in the country.” She discusses the recently released Blueprint for an AIDS-free Generation (.pdf), progress in Namibia’s AIDS response, and the transition period in which Namibia will take full responsibility for its HIV program. “We are proud to work with the government and people of Namibia to do our part toward achieving the goal of creating an AIDS-free generation. By investing smarter and working together, we will win this fight,” she writes (12/3).
“The nearly two-year conflict in Syria has taken tens of thousands of lives, destroyed entire neighborhoods and sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing. But more quietly, it has also eaten away at the country’s health care system,” IRIN reports. Many pharmaceutical factories, “which used to produce more than 90 percent of the country’s drug needs,” have shut down or cut production, the news service writes, adding, “Those medicines that are available have also risen in price, and amid skyrocketing unemployment and rising food prices, many Syrians — especially those displaced from their homes by the violence — are struggling to afford their usual medication.”
“Each year, the United States spends more than $1.5 billion feeding starving people overseas,” columnist Farah Stockman writes in a Boston Globe opinion piece. “But our charity comes with a catch: The food has to be bought in America, and much of it must be shipped on American ships,” she continues, adding, “Researchers estimate that buying food closer to where needy people are costs about half as much.” She continues, “We are the last donor country in the world to have these rules,” and writes, “At a time of budget cuts, you would think that one thing Republicans and Democrats could agree on would be making sure every tax dollar stretches as far as it can.” Stockman asks, “Why don’t we just change it?”
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog examines the potential impacts of a proposed anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, writing that the bill “would stand as an obstacle to both access to health care and to the ability of health care providers to even offer services,” making prevention of “the bill’s passage a matter of life and death, as well as of rights and dignity.” According to the blog, “The record of Uganda’s HIV fight, once hailed as a model and a success story, now showing the most alarming reverses in Africa, stands as testament to what happens to health responses in a setting where science, human rights, and the realities of the impact of discriminatory laws are ignored. In all of those, of course, Uganda is far from alone, raising the question of what the world’s greatest united humanitarian effort, the work to treat and prevent the spread of HIV, could achieve when those issues are addressed.” The blog briefly examines other countries’ anti-sodomy laws and proposed anti-homosexuality legislation (Barton, 12/10).