In a Foreign Policy opinion piece, former U.S. Ambassador Jack Chow, who served as a special representative for HIV/AIDS under former Secretary of State Colin Powell and currently is a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College of Public Policy, examines the challenges of delivering humanitarian aid and how “[t]he technological versatility of airborne drones, the flying robots that are already transforming warfare, … has the potential to revolutionize how humanitarian aid is delivered worldwide.” He describes the work of several start-up companies looking to employ drones for such a purpose, saying “waves of aid drones might quickly deliver a peaceful ‘first strike’ capacity of food and medicines to disaster areas.”
Access to Health Services
“Trade deals are threatening generic drugs — we need new ways to incentivize affordable drug development,” Daniele Dionisio, head of the research project Geopolitics, Public Health and Access to Medicines (GESPAM) and a member of the European Parliament Working Group on Innovation, Access to Medicines and Poverty-Related Diseases, writes in this SciDev.Net opinion piece. “Just under three billion people live on less than $2 per day, in resource-limited countries where key medicines protected by patents are unaffordable,” he writes, adding, “Free-trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and governments adopting intellectual property (IP) policies that favor the brand pharmaceutical sector are also threatening the trade of legitimate generic medicines.”
Blog Examines Coordinated Effort To Monitor Drug Procurement Through Global Fund Grants In Kyrgyzstan
“In recent years, Kyrgyzstan has benefited from a significant increase in international funding to improve health care,” but, “[d]espite this influx of international funding, many people in Kyrgyzstan are unable to get the lifesaving medicines that they need,” Madina Tokombaeva, director of the Harm Reduction Network (HRN) in Kyrgyzstan, and Maryam Beishenova, program coordinator at HRN, write in this Open Society Foundations blog post. The authors describe how, in 2010, “three Kyrgyz organizations working on HIV and health issues — the Harm Reduction Network, Partnership Network, and Unity of People Living with HIV — launched a coordinated effort to monitor and analyze the procurement and distribution of medicines purchased with Global Fund grants.” They recount a court victory in which they gained access to Ministry of Health records and conclude, “Civil society organizations have been energized and we are committed to ensure that government agencies and donors are transparent and efficient” (4/5).
A strain of malaria that is resistant to artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) is spreading along the Thai-Myanmar border and has the potential to spread to Africa if efforts to effectively treat and prevent the disease are not undertaken, according to a study published in the Lancet on Friday, Reuters reports (Lyn, 4/5). Since 2008, patients treated with ACT have been slower to clear the parasite than previously, “[a]nd this precursor to resistance seems to be spreading, despite efforts to carefully use artemisinin (by giving it in combination with other drugs) to avoid the emergence of resistance,” Scientific American writes.
Yaws, a skin and bone disease caused by a treponematoses bacterium that can cause long-term deformities, “has recently been put on WHO’s list of 17 so-called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)” and, along with Guinea worm, is “slated for eradication,” the Lancet reports. A “massive push to free the world from yaws failed in the 1950s and 1960s,” and the WHO in 1995 estimated “there were 2.5 million cases of endemic treponematoses (mostly yaws),” according to the Lancet. A study published in the Lancet in January showed a single dose of the antibiotic azithromycin was effective at curing the disease among children, a finding that “jump-started the NTD community into action,” the article states.
Politico Pro examines the reaction to a speech delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a TEDxChange conference in Berlin on April 5. “Gates’s speech was primarily focused on explaining why family planning is important in the developing world,” according to the news service. Gates said lack of access to modern contraceptives is “a life and death crisis” because with family planning, the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children could be saved annually, the news service notes. “But multiple global health experts heard her comments as an intentional effort to push back on the politicization of birth control in the United States following the Obama administration’s new contraception coverage policy, which they fear could spill over into global health policy,” the news service writes. However, “Gates Foundation spokesman Chris Williams said Gates was simply reiterating her long-standing support for family planning and that viewing these remarks in light of domestic politics would be ‘using the wrong lens,'” the article notes.
South Africa’s recently released “National Strategic Plan on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Tuberculosis (TB) 2012-2016” “marked an important milestone” in the nation’s fight against infectious diseases, a Lancet editorial states. “The plan [.pdf] has several broad goals: to reduce new HIV infections by at least 50 percent; to start at least 80 percent of eligible patients on antiretroviral treatment; to reduce the number of new tuberculosis infections and deaths by 50 percent; to ensure a legal framework that protects and promotes human rights to support implementation of the plan; and to reduce self-reported stigma related to HIV and tuberculosis by at least 50 percent,” the editorial notes.
The PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” blog features an interview with journalist Jon Cohen, in which he discusses the possibility of an “AIDS-free generation,” recent reports from UNAIDS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AIDS funding, HIV vaccine research, and World AIDS Day. “So there’s good news in the sense that the epidemic has stabilized, that new infections are dropping compared to a decade ago. And the more sobering news is there’s a lot of progress that the world collectively agreed should happen by 2015 … and it just doesn’t look like much of it is going to happen,” Cohen said about data in the UNAIDS’ World AIDS Day report: Results, the blog reports (Kane, 11/30).
On Saturday, December 1, “United Nations officials [marked] World AIDS Day with a call for building on recent successes and pressing ahead to get to zero — zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths — by 2015,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘On this World AIDS Day, let us commit to build on and amplify the encouraging successes of recent years to consign HIV/AIDS to the pages of history,’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said [.pdf] in his message for the day,” the news service writes, noting UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, “We have moved from despair to hope. Far fewer people are dying from AIDS.” The news service also includes quotes from Irina Bokova, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake; and U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin (11/30).
As part of its series titled “The State of HIV/AIDS,” GlobalPost published two stories examining the epidemic in different regions of the world. In one article, the news service looks at the spread and control of HIV in Asia, writing, “No generalized epidemic has broken out across the region, HIV infection rates have stabilized in many countries, and more and more people are receiving antiretroviral medication.” However, “[t]he disease continues to spread: for every person in Asia that begins antiretroviral treatment, roughly two new adults are infected with HIV. Moreover, funding is too tight — the total of $1.1 billion spent on campaigns in Asia in 2009 was less than one-third of what the U.N. says is needed for universal success,” according to the news service (Carlson, 12/1). In a second article, GlobalPost says in Africa, “statistics tell an upbeat story,” noting that the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen over the past decade. “But despite all the positive progress, experts warn against complacency. Sub-Saharan Africa still accounted for almost three-quarters of all new HIV infections worldwide last year,” the news service continues (McConnell, 12/3).