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Advocacy Groups Warn Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Affect Access To Low-Cost Medications, Bloomberg Reports

Bloomberg Businessweek examines how ongoing trade negotiations related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership could affect access to quality low-cost medications, including antiretrovirals, in low- and middle-income countries. “Protecting the patents of drug makers … as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has drawn criticism from groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Public Citizen,” and “[t]he proposed accord has also spurred calls from U.S. lawmakers for greater transparency about the negotiations,” the news service writes. “The multilateral talks, the main accord being pursued by President Barack Obama’s administration, … began with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam [and] may expand after the parties invited Canada and Mexico,” the news service notes.

One Blog Examines GAVI Alliance's Efforts To Accelerate Introduction Of Hepatitis B Vaccines In Developing Countries

“I am looking forward to participating in the 2012 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, to be held in Montreal, Canada on August 27,” GAVI Alliance Deputy CEO Helen Evans writes in this post in the One Blog. “This will be an opportunity to take stock of where the world is with regards to cancer prevention and treatment and to learn more about action to address the existing challenges to eliminating cancer as a life-threatening disease for future generations,” she writes, and discusses GAVI’s efforts to “accelerat[e] the introduction of hepatitis B vaccines in developing countries since 2000,” noting “GAVI has helped prevent an estimated 3.7 million deaths from liver cancer (caused by hepatitis B)” (8/21).

India's Top Court To Hear Final Arguments In Cancer Drug Patent Dispute With Novartis

“India’s top court will hear final arguments … in a key patent dispute between Swiss drug maker Novartis and India’s patent office, a case that could curb India’s global position as a supplier of cut-price generic medicines,” Reuters reports. “Novartis appealed to the Supreme Court after its cancer medicine Glivec was refused a patent on the grounds the drug is not a new molecule but an amended version of a known compound,” the news service notes, adding, “Novartis has challenged this clause of Indian Patents Act.”

Health Workers Feeling Effects Of Staff, Supply Shortages At Clinics In Southwestern Uganda

Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region's] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).

USAID NTD Program Funding Cut By Nearly 25% In Proposed FY13 Budget

“The United States Government has played a major role in ensuring that patients with certain [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)] receive urgently needed treatments through the [USAID] NTD Program, while simultaneously being the largest funder of basic research for NTDs through the National Institutes of Health,” Rachel Cohen, regional executive director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) of North America, writes in this post in the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog. “However, today U.S. Government funding for NTDs is under threat,” as the “recently announced U.S. fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request from the Obama Administration has slashed the USAID NTD Program budget, which was already miniscule at $89 million, by nearly 25 percent to $67 million. … This isn’t trimming the fat — it’s cutting into muscle,” she adds (Lufkin, 3/28).

Meeting MDG Safe Water Target Cause For Celebration, But More Work Remains To Bring Access To All

The achievement of meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for safe drinking water “shows that where there is a will, it is possible to truly transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better,” Sanjay Wijesekera, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress towards achieving the target is off-track, 273 million additional people gained access to drinking water since 1990,” he writes, adding, “So, we should raise our hats to the governments, organizations, communities and individuals who put great effort and resources into making this happen.”

Many Ethiopians Coming To Camp In Search Of Traditional Cure For HIV Turn To ARVs, WSJ Reports

The Wall Street Journal examines how many HIV-positive Ethiopians coming to a “squatter’s camp” at Ethiopia’s Entoto Mountain in the hopes that a spring believed to contain holy water would cure HIV instead begin treatment with antiretrovirals (ARVs). “The country’s traditional and often superstitious views toward AIDS commonly lead to exile for the disease’s sufferers,” the newspaper writes, adding, “But modern methods are gaining more purchase, in recent years resulting in a greater number of Ethiopians on antiretroviral therapy and a decline in AIDS-related deaths.”

CSIS Report Examines HIV Prevention, Care Among People Who Inject Drugs In Ukraine

A new report, titled “Injection Drug Use in Ukraine” and published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), examines the challenges of providing HIV prevention and care services in the country, particularly to people who inject drugs (PWID), who accounted for “nearly 50 percent of new HIV infections registered in 2010,” according to the CSIS website. Authors Phillip Nieburg, senior associate and co-chair of the Prevention Committee of the CSIS HIV/AIDS Task Force, and Lisa Carty, senior adviser in the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, also examine how the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and PEPFAR could help Ukraine “in advancing HIV prevention and other services for PWID,” the website notes (3/16).

AIDS Survey Preliminary Data Show Stagnation In Uganda’s HIV Prevalence, Need For Improved Prevention Strategies, Experts Say

A preliminary report on the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey, conducted by the Ministry of Health, shows the country’s “HIV prevalence rate [has] stagnated over the last 10 years, [and] the number of people infected with HIV has risen from 1.8 million people to 2.3 million today,” the Observer writes. “Health experts at the launch of the preliminary report said this is not only worrying for a poor country like Uganda, but also shows that the billions of dollars sunk into prevention are not reaping any results, as people continue to get infected,” the newspaper writes.

Al Jazeera Examines Global Maternal Mortality

Al Jazeera examines maternal mortality worldwide, saying, “If the situation continues at its current rate, the world will not meet” the U.N. Millennium Development Goal “to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.” Though the estimated number of women who die of maternal mortality has dropped from 546,000 in 1990 to 340,000 today, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy in developing countries “is still high at one in 31,” compared with one in 4,300 in developed countries, the news agency reports. “Attaining zero maternal death would require greater community involvement and commitment” and increased access to contraceptives and skilled birth attendants, according to experts, Al Jazeera notes (Arjunpuri, 3/19).