Noting successes with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and PEPFAR, as well as other domestic and international programs, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) writes in a Politico opinion piece, “But this is not enough.” He continues, “The Obama administration has the opportunity to push for policies that can offer developing nations more access to generic ARV therapies,” including supporting intellectual property rules under the Trans-Pacific Partnership “that would help speed up — not impede — generic drug competition in countries like Vietnam.” Waxman adds, “We should also back efforts to give developing countries more flexibility in interpreting the World Trade Organization’s patent rules for medicines,” and the administration “should … promote the Medicines Patent Pool, a bold initiative to bring down prices of HIV medicines by encouraging pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily license their patents and allow generic manufacturers to sell in developing countries.” Waxman concludes that the U.S. should be proud of its leadership on HIV/AIDS, “[b]ut our work is far from done. Supporting reliable access to generic medicines in the developing world is a much-needed step in getting us there” (7/24).
Access to Health Services
OPINION: 'Win-Win Deals' Between Drug Companies, Purchasers Solution To Intellectual Property Debates
In this Foreign Policy opinion piece, Roger Bate, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in international health policy, discusses in detail the debates over intellectual property protection for drugs in relation to access to these drugs in developing countries and highlights a number of recent cases involving intellectual property legislation in the developing world. “Stricter TRIPS implementation is in the broad public interest because it increases incentives to innovate,” but “TRIPS is really a distraction from the job of increasing medicine access in the developing world,” he writes, concluding, “The solution lies in win-win deals between drug companies and institutional purchasers (domestic health agencies or foreign donors) that segment the market and tier prices sensibly. … [T]he real action is in making hybrid deals that recognize the political realities, and move on” (7/23).
In this opinion piece in the Atlantic, Mark Harrington, co-founder and executive director of the Treatment Action Group (TAG), says that stronger leadership from the U.S. is needed in order to end the AIDS epidemic. Harrington notes that “earlier this year, [President Obama] proposed a shocking cut of $550 million to [PEPFAR], the most successful U.S.-funded global health program in history,” and highlights his absence from “the first International AIDS Conference to be held on American soil since … 1990.” He provides “a to do list the president should consider if he wants to walk the walk,” which includes “[f]ully fund[ing] PEPFAR and support[ing] its reauthorization in 2013,” “[f]ully support[ing] the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” “[r]eject[ing] the congressional ban on federal funding for needle exchange,” “[r]evis[ing] and revitaliz[ing] the National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” increasing funding for NIH, and “fully funding the research, prevention, care, and treatment” needed to end the epidemic (7/24).
“Much still needs to be done to get treatment to those who need it and to meet the UNAIDS-endorsed goal to achieve universal access by 2015, according to a new survey [.pdf] examining 25 HIV indicators assessing strategies, tools and policies to get the best HIV treatment to more people, sooner,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Mazzotta, 7/24). The report by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), in collaboration with UNAIDS, “show[s] that governments have made improvements to get better antiretroviral treatment (ART) to more people, but implementation of innovative community-based strategies is lagging in some countries,” according to an MSF press release (7/24).
HIV Drug Coverage In Sub-Saharan Africa Continues To Improve But Not Sustainable, UNAIDS' Sidibe Says
At the end of 2011, 6.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were taking antiretroviral drugs, about 56 percent of the people in need in the region, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe noted in an interview last week, saying, “Ten years ago, nobody would have imagined that such a result would be possible,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Sidibe — visiting Paris ahead of the July 22-27 International AIDS Conference in Washington — said he was worried that African countries remained so dependent on foreign help,” the news service states. “With the exception of South Africa, 80 percent of Africans with HIV have access to drugs via funding from outside Africa. This is not sustainable. It’s even dangerous,” he said, according to the news service.
The Financial Times examines efforts by “Ethiopian policymakers, faced with a rapidly expanding population and rising numbers of HIV/AIDS infections,” to integrate family planning into HIV counseling and testing programs in the country. “When counseling women on reproductive health or child immunization, family planning clinics can also discuss HIV testing and prevention, particularly condom use, as well as introducing pregnant women to mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention services,” the newspaper notes.
In a special series called “AIDS: A Turning Point,” NPR reports on global progress against HIV/AIDS ahead of the AIDS 2012 conference taking place in Washington, D.C., this month. As part of the series, NPR’s “Morning Edition” examines Botswana’s response to the epidemic, writing, “A decade ago, Botswana was facing a national crisis as AIDS appeared on the verge of decimating the country’s adult population. Now, Botswana provides free, life-saving AIDS drugs to almost all of its citizens who need them.” According to the show, “Part of the reason Botswana’s HIV treatment program has been effective is that the country moved relatively quickly to address the epidemic” and “over the course of the epidemic, Botswana has steadily increased its own spending on HIV” (7/9).
With the London Summit on Family Planning scheduled to take place this week, Melinda Gates writes in a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog that family planning “can mean everything to so many of the women and families I meet.” She continues, “Providing family planning information and services to millions of women and girls in the poorest countries in the world gives them the opportunity to determine their own futures, and the best future for their children. As a woman and a mother, I can’t imagine anything more important.” Gates asks readers to watch and comment on a short video on the site (7/6).
Noting more than 20,000 international HIV researchers and activists will gather in Washington, D.C., for the AIDS 2012 conference later this month, the Associated Press writes that there is “a sense of optimism not seen in many years — hope that it finally may be possible to dramatically stem the spread of the AIDS virus.” “‘We want to make sure we don’t overpromise,’ Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease chief, told the Associated Press,” the news service notes, adding, “But, he said, ‘I think we are at a turning point.”
Though South Africa has made progress against HIV/AIDS over the past few years, the country’s “health minister says much more needs to be done,” VOA News reports. Health officials from South Africa’s Medical Research Council on Thursday said the mother-to-child transmission rate dropped from 3.5 percent in 2010 to 2.7 percent in 2011, getting the country closer to its goal of reaching a two percent rate by 2015, the news service notes. But Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi “told reporters Thursday in Johannesburg that 60 percent of HIV/AIDS patients are female and they must be the focus to stem the epidemic in the country,” VOA writes, adding, “Motsoaledi is urging everyone to seek regular HIV testing in an effort to reduce the epidemic and diminish the disease’s stigma” (Powell, 7/19).