“Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the biotech start-up Amyris [have] developed a process to manufacture artemisinin, a crucial ingredient in first-line malaria drugs that until now had to be extracted from a natural crop called sweet wormwood,” PBS NewsHour reports. “The new semi-synthetic artemisinin … successfully entered the production phase through a public-private partnership with the drug company Sanofi-Aventis earlier this year” and “will hit the market beginning in 2012,” according to NewsHour. Olusoji Adeyi, who runs the affordable malaria medication program at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said the new formulation of artemisinin will help make better quality malaria treatments more affordable and increase access, NewsHour reports (Miller, 10/31).
Access to Health Services
Nearly Half Of Pregnant Women In Southern China’s Poor Areas Do Not Get Tested For Syphilis, Study Shows
“Nearly half of pregnant women do not get tested for syphilis in poor areas of southern China where the sexually transmitted disease has seen a resurgence, researchers said Wednesday” in a study published in the WHO’s November 2011 Bulletin, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Pregnant women with syphilis can miscarry, have stillbirths or their infants can have congenital defects, the news service notes. According to the AP, the study “found that more than 40 percent of about 125,000 mothers-to-be in Guangdong province were not tested for syphilis in 2008, mostly due to a lack of health facilities in rural areas.” The study noted that “several provincial and national programs to improve testing have been put in place” since the study was conducted, the AP writes (Wong, 11/1).
In this Hill opinion piece, John Castellani, CEO and president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, writes, “Over the past three decades, more than 30 treatments have been approved to treat HIV/AIDS,” but he adds, “While this is remarkable progress, it’s not enough.” He continues, “In order for scientific progress in these areas to continue, the substantial financial investments in medicines created in America’s biopharmaceutical labs — medicines that take years and billions of dollars to develop — must be protected by international patent laws.”
“The cost of HIV/AIDS medicine is expected to drop by 30 percent in Kenya, enabling more people to access life-prolonging drugs, after the World Health Organization (WHO) gave the green light to a local company manufacturing generics, The Star newspaper reported on Wednesday,” AlertNet reports. Universal Corporation received WHO prequalification status for its generic combination antiretroviral Lamozido, which “will enable the company to bid for international tenders to supply drugs to governments and non-governmental organizations, who in turn give them to people living with HIV/AIDS,” the news service writes (Migiro, 11/2).
In this Lancet editorial, Giuseppe Raviola, Anne Becker and Paul Farmer, professors with the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, write, “Unprecedented opportunities to promote excellence and equity in health care delivery for the world’s most underserved populations are upon us,” but “delivery of mental health services in low-resource settings lags unacceptably and unjustly far behind that of other services.”
In this post on the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Grania Brigden, the tuberculosis (TB) adviser to the Medecins Sans Frontieres Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, writes that while “[t]his year’s Global Tuberculosis Control report shows the beginning of a decline in the global tuberculosis epidemic, … there is…
The Guardian profiles Brian Brink, chief medical officer at Anglo American, South Africa’s largest private-sector employer, and the company’s efforts to treat and prevent HIV among its employees. According to the newspaper, “HIV affects 12,000 of its employees, or 16 percent of its 70,000-strong permanent staff.” The Guardian continues, “For Anglo, a healthy workforce is a more loyal and productive one,” which is why it offers HIV testing and treatment free-of-charge to employees, runs HIV prevention programs, and promotes gender equality. “Not only is it a moral imperative to get on top of the AIDS problem, it’s also good for business, and the wider South African economy. The prevalence of AIDS and HIV [the virus that leads to AIDS] probably lops one percent off the country’s GDP,” Brink said (11/3).
South Africa Draws Inspiration From Brazil’s Health Care System Despite Skepticism By Some Brazilians, IPS Reports
Inter Press Service reports on how the South African government, in setting up its own universal health coverage scheme, was inspired by Brazil’s Sistema Unico de Saude or Single Health System (SUS), which was shaped during the 1980s when the system was restructured to make health care a universal right. However, IPS notes that the news may be met with skepticism by Brazilians with a negative opinion of the country’s public health care system. “The SUS made it possible to provide everyone with health care, while reducing the chaos in the health sector,” but “[c]orruption, aggravated by insufficient inspections, has contributed to the poor execution of the” system, according to IPS.
“With the HIV prevalence rate higher among women than men in Zambia, experts say the epidemic now has a women’s face here and, therefore, requires more specialized intervention programs,” and “[w]omen living with HIV say that women must be taught how to live positively with it,” the Global Press Institute reports in a story examining the epidemic among women in Zambia. The article looks at factors influencing higher HIV rates among women and government efforts to provide treatment and prevention programs, and includes comments from Nkandu Luo, a Zambian HIV/AIDS advocate and researcher; Viola Morgan, U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) country director; and Clementine Mumba, executive secretary for the Network of ARV Users, a support and advocacy group for people living with HIV/AIDS (Katongo, 11/10).
Global Health Service Corps Essential To Improve African Health Systems, Achieve ‘AIDS-Free Generation’
“A notable feature of Secretary [of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton’s ‘AIDS-free generation’ initiative is to strengthen health care systems in sub-Saharan Africa, … a view echoed by many eminent voices in the global health community,” Anand Reddi of the University of Colorado Medical School writes in a post on Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “To address the African health care workforce shortage, I encourage Secretary Clinton to adopt the principles of the” Global Health Service Corps (GHSC), which would be composed of U.S. health professionals who could “provide medical education and technical assistance to enhance the health care workforces in low-income countries,” Reddi says. In addition, the GHSC would focus on “infrastructure development, knowledge transfer, and capacity building,” Reddi writes.