“Zimbabwe is set to attain ‘universal’ coverage for AIDS treatment thanks in part to an $84 million disbursement [on Tuesday] by the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” the U.N. News Centre reports (10/2). “The new disbursement will cover the cost of life-saving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) for an additional 10,000 new patients, bringing the total number of people on treatment with Global Fund support to 203,440 by the end of the year,” the Global Fund announced in a press release. The funding also will support a six-month ARV buffer stock to prevent treatment interruptions for the 480,000 patients on therapy in Zimbabwe, the press release notes (10/2). The Global Fund’s announcement to support additional patients comes together with an announcement from PEPFAR to increase the number of patients supported by its program from 80,000 to 140,000, with a goal of having 160,000 patients on therapy by the end of next year, Zimbabwe’s Herald notes.
Access to Health Services
“Tanzania has made significant advances in cutting maternal deaths thanks to a United Nations-sponsored program that brings public and private sectors together to resolve one of the most stubborn but preventable woes afflicting the developing world,” but more must be done to scale up efforts to save lives, leaders involved in the program said during a news conference on Tuesday at U.N. Headquarters, the U.N. News Centre reports. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Helen Agerup, head of the H&B Agerup Foundation, attended the conference, where they discussed results from the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, according to the news service (10/2).
Experts Worried Political Commitment, Health Services Delivery Still Lacking Despite Efforts To Improve Family Planning In Uganda
“Family planning advocates in Uganda have scored some major financial and policy wins this year, but experts remain concerned that inadequate political commitment and poor health services will continue to impede women’s and girls’ access to contraceptives,” IRIN reports. With one of the fastest growing populations in the world, Uganda’s “President Yoweri Museveni announced that his government would increase its annual expenditure on family planning supplies from $3.3 million to $5 million for the next five years” and he “pledged to mobilize an additional $5 million from the country’s donors,” the news service writes. In addition, the “Ministry of Health has laid out a roadmap for providing universal access to family planning, involving the integration of family planning into other health services,” the news service notes.
Integrating reproductive health and other services, such as HIV care, “makes sense, and there is emerging evidence that it can be associated with a host of benefits, such as improved uptake of services, enhanced program efficiency, and even improved health outcomes when compared to separate services,” Gavin Yamey, who leads E2Pi in the Global Health Group at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), and Craig Cohen, a professor in-residence in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, write in the PLoS blog “Speaking of Medicine.” They describe five key themes that emerged last month at the Integration for Impact conference, co-hosted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Kenyan government, and UCSF. They write, “The emphasis was on presenting the latest research findings, exploring the policy implications of this evidence, and laying out the unanswered research questions,” and describe the five themes, including keeping human rights at the forefront and better defining and measuring integration (10/3).
Doctors in Kenya on Wednesday were striking for the 17th day to protest poor conditions in some of the nation’s public hospitals, where “[e]mergency rooms … frequently don’t have gloves or medicine, and power outages sometimes force doctors to use the light from their phones to complete a procedure,” the Associated Press reports. Last week, “Kenya’s government fired 1,000 of the 2,000 striking doctors … despite a shortfall of skilled medical practitioners,” the news service writes, noting Kenya has one doctor for every 6,250 people and the WHO recommendation is one for every 100 people. “Attempts to hold talks this week with officials from the Ministry for Medical Services failed, prompting the doctors to flood social media with tell-all stories about deplorable conditions in public hospitals,” the AP states.
IRIN examines unsafe abortion and access to contraceptives in Kenya, writing, “Despite the medical risks associated with unsafe abortions, many women in Kenya continue to seek these services. Experts say only a scale-up of access to, and promotion of, contraceptives among sexually active women can reduce it.” According to the news service, “[e]xperts say that for practical purposes, the government must do more to enable women and girls to prevent unwanted pregnancies.” The 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey showed that about one-quarter of married women in Kenya “have an unmet need for family planning — they would like to space their children or stop having children but are not using any form of contraception,” IRIN notes. According to the news service, “Shahnaz Sharif, director of public health, told IRIN the government was working to increase awareness and uptake of contraceptives” (10/3).
Reuters examines how the fight against malaria in Africa is helping to fuel the continent’s economic growth. “The number of malaria deaths has fallen dramatically in the last decade due to increased aid spending on basic items such as insecticide-treated bed nets and drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) says,” the news agency writes, noting that an experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline is showing prospect. The news agency discusses the efforts of AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest gold producer, to prevent and treat malaria among its workers, which “‘made economic sense because of the absenteeism and the cost of medication,’ said Steve Knowles, the head of AngloGold’s anti-malaria operations.”
Growing Number Of Countries Adopting Flexible IP Regulations After India Issues Country's First Compulsory License
“A growing number of countries are adopting India’s intellectual property regulations, which give enough flexibility to local companies to produce generic versions of popular drugs to safeguard public health,” India’s Economic Times reports, noting, “In March, India issued the country’s first compulsory license, allowing [Natco Pharma] to legally manufacture and sell a low-cost version of German drugmaker Bayer AG’s patented cancer drug, Nexavar, at 3 percent of the original medicine’s price on the grounds that Bayer’s drug was not meeting public health requirement.” The news service writes, “Although multinational companies have criticized India for being lax in enforcing intellectual property (IP) laws, countries such as China, Argentina, and the Philippines are adopting similar provisions.”
“In order to break the vicious cycle that leaves tropical diseases neglected, existing programs that diagnose and treat patients need to be expanded and medical research to develop simpler, more effective tools needs to be supported, according to a new report, Fighting Neglect [.pdf], released [Monday] by Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF),” the organization reports on its webpage. “Charting the organization’s 25 years of experience in diagnosing and treating Chagas disease, sleeping sickness, and kala azar in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Caucasus, the report examines past, present, and future management of the diseases and notes that access to quality life-saving treatment requires much greater political will among major international donors and national governments of endemic countries,” MSF writes (6/11).
“China has overhauled parts of its intellectual property laws to allow its drug makers to make cheap copies of medicines still under patent protection in an initiative likely to unnerve foreign pharmaceutical companies,” Reuters reports (Lyn, 6/8). “The amended patent law allows Beijing to issue compulsory licenses to eligible companies to produce generic versions of patented drugs during state emergencies, unusual circumstances, or in the interests of the public,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “For ‘reasons of public health,’ eligible drug makers can also ask to export these medicines to other countries, including members of the World Trade Organization (WTO)” (6/9).