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Advocacy Groups Say Corruption Leaving Millions Of HIV-Positive Ukrainians Without Treatment, AP Reports

The Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle reports on how Ukrainian “advocacy groups are accusing the government of embezzling millions of dollars in corrupt drug tenders and thus depriving patients of vital treatment.” The news service notes, “Of the estimated 450,000 Ukrainians who are HIV-positive, 70,000 require urgent treatment today, … [but] only 28,000 are receiving it, leaving over 40,000 of patients without antiretroviral therapy, which could greatly prolong their lives, according to WHO.” Igor Pokanevych, head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, said, “More resources should be allocated to fight against AIDS in this country,” but the AP reports that “advocacy groups charge that the government in fact has the necessary funds to treat all of its AIDS patients” and “accuse health ministry officials [of] embezzling money that should be used to treat patients by buying AIDS drugs at hugely inflated prices and then pocketing kickbacks.”

OPINION: Global Community Has Raised Hope In HIV/AIDS Response

“For the first time in many years, a new message is on the lips of the people on the frontlines [of the AIDS response] — together, we will end AIDS,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Living” blog. He notes, “Just a decade ago, this very thought would have been dismissed,” and asks, “What has changed? Where has this hope come from?” He writes, “It comes from the resilience and steadfastness of the global community, led by people living with HIV, grandmothers, sisters, brothers, mothers, doctors, nurses, scientists, activists to halt the AIDS epidemic from defining our lives.” He provides a recap of the global response, highlighting results, investments, scientific progress, and the protection of human rights, and continues, “Above all, it is people who have changed the face of the AIDS epidemic.” He concludes, “We can end AIDS. We will end AIDS” (7/25).

NPR Examines Whether Goal Of Treating All HIV-Positive People With ARVs Is Feasible

Noting new guidelines released at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., this week “call for everybody with HIV to be started on antiretroviral drugs [ARVs] as soon as they test positive for the virus,” NPR’s “Shots” blog examines “whether the goal is achievable, and who would pay for this enormous expansion in treatment.” “Right now about eight million people across the world are getting treated for HIV at a cost of around $17 billion a year,” the blog writes, adding, “Universal treatment would cost another $22 billion, by some estimates.” The blog notes Bernhard Schwartlander, director for evidence, strategy and results at UNAIDS, in a plenary speech at the conference on Tuesday “offered up several possible ways to raise the money,” including a tax on shipping and aviation fuel (Knox, 7/26).

Laura Bush Discusses Foreign Aid, Work On AIDS, Cervical Cancer In ABC Interview

ABC News’ “OTUS” blog features an interview with former first lady Laura Bush, who discusses the importance of foreign aid and how she and her husband, former President George W. Bush, “will be building off the success of [PEPFAR] and continuing to work to fight AIDS in Africa and worldwide,” including “help[ing] women in developing countries screen for cervical cancer” (Karl/Wolf, 7/25). Laura Bush is scheduled to speak at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Thursday, and a webcast of the session, “Leadership in the AIDS Response for Women,” will be available online from the Kaiser Family Foundation (7/26).

AIDS 2012 Plenary Speakers Call For Expanded Efforts To Provide HIV Treatment, Prevention To Women, Children

AIDS experts speaking at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Wednesday called for an expansion of HIV care and treatment to all women instead of focusing only on those who are pregnant, the Associated Press reports. While many countries have programs to treat pregnant women with HIV infection with antiretroviral treatment (ART) to lessen the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, UNICEF Senior Programme Adviser Chewe Luo said at the plenary session that most countries do not continue providing ART after mothers wean their infants, the news service notes, adding, “She praised Malawi for starting to do just that” through a treatment initiative called Plan B+ (Neergaard, 7/25). According to the Guardian, the plan would add an additional $300 million to global treatment costs, but “people with HIV on treatment become far less likely to infect their partners, as well as their babies, so the additional outlay may be considered a good investment.” Luo said discussions with PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria about funding such programs are underway, the newspaper notes (Boseley, 7/25). In a satellite session on Tuesday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “commended countries and their international partners for recent progress in preventing new HIV infections among children and saving mothers’ lives,” health-e news reports (7/25).

Poor ART Adherence, Understanding Threatening To Undermine Gains Against HIV/AIDS In Nepal

Though HIV prevalence in Nepal has dropped from 0.45 percent in 2005 to 0.3 percent in 2012, “[p]oor understanding of antiretroviral therapy (ART) amongst health officials, clinicians and patients in Nepal could undermine [those] gains … and threaten future progress in lowering the number of new infections,” PlusNews reports. The news service interviews several Nepalese HIV/AIDS specialists about the importance of patients’ adherence to ART, how difficult travel to clinics can inhibit patients from returning for medication refills or counseling, and how “[p]olicies that neglect the comprehensive nutritional, financial, educational, and pharmaceutical needs of people living with HIV/AIDS amount to treatment illiteracy at the policy level.” PlusNews writes, “Observers fear the positive results from national HIV efforts could be diluted if tensions over the administration of HIV programs continue, and adherence issues hamper implementation” (4/17).

Researchers, Advocates Meet In Sydney To Discuss State Of Microbicide, HIV Prevention Research

“Three decades after the full onset of the global HIV tragedy, science appears to finally be developing preventative measures, including microbicides that would thwart infections in the first place, according to individuals at” the biennial International Microbicides Conference in Sydney, the Asia Sentinel writes. “Now, however, the challenge is to put the solution into the hands of those most susceptible to the disease,” the news service adds (Ramakant, 4/17). Researchers, advocates and funders met this week at the conference “to discuss the state of HIV prevention research,” a conference press release states.

Trust, Invest In African Ministries Of Health To Create Sustainable Health Care Solutions

“During the 1990s it had taken a while for the rest of the world to wake up to the tragedy of AIDS in Africa, but belatedly the alarm call had come,” John Wright, a consultant in clinical epidemiology at Bradford Royal Infirmary in England, writes in a BMJ opinion piece. “Global funding and international action achieved something quite miraculous, bringing the most expensive and innovative drugs in the world to the poorest people on the planet; a triumph of science and health policy that made the discovery of penicillin look quaint,” he says. “The new health colonialists have come from across the globe with admirable intentions and boundless energy in a new scramble for Africa. Dozens of well meaning health providers are falling over each other to help — but crucially also to justify their efforts to their sponsors back home,” he writes.

PATH Blog Examines Organization’s Work In Malaria Through Affiliate Drug Development Program

This PATH Blog post examines PATH’s work in malaria through OneWorld Health, a non-profit drug development program. Since 2004, “when OneWorld Health formed a partnership to develop an alternative source of the malaria drug artemisinin, … OneWorld Health, which became an affiliate of PATH late last year, [has] quietly forged relationships with public and private partners, creating the Artemisinin Project to take the work from research to commercialization,” the blog writes. “Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the partners worked toward providing an affordable and reliable source of high-quality artemisinin — one not dependent on planting schedules, the weather, or the fluctuating market,” the blog adds (Donnelly, 4/10).

Efforts To Improve Maternal Health In Uganda Moving Forward

This post on RH Reality Check examines a Ugandan court case “alleging that the Ugandan government failed to protect the … constitutional rights to life and health [of several women] by allowing them to die in ill-equipped and poorly managed public hospitals, or failing to provide them with basic maternal care.” According to the post, one in 35 Ugandan women die during pregnancy or childbirth, and “[o]ne of the key complaints in the petition is the government spends just one-quarter on maternal health of what it pledged to spend, per capita.” The post goes on to describe efforts to improve maternal health in Uganda (Mack, 4/10).