Agence France-Presse examines a rise in tuberculosis (TB) cases in Madagascar, writing, “Last year alone, 26,700 people contracted TB, according to the health ministry, a jump of more than 16 percent compared with 2009, when a military coup precipitated an economic crisis as donors suspended aid to one of the world’s poorest countries.” The news service notes, “Chronic malnutrition and poverty deepened, contributing to the spike in TB, experts say” and adds, “Even before the political crisis, Madagascar suffered one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.”
Access to Health Services
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.
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.”
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).
Noting the 2010 reversal of the HIV travel and immigration ban allowing the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to be held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, “It is so exciting to host this conference at such a pivotal time in the history of the AIDS response,” and adds, “At no other time in history has our global leadership been more important than it is right now.” With nearly 25,000 people from about 200 countries expected to gather in Washington, D.C., for the conference July 22-27, “These leaders in the global HIV and AIDS fight will showcase their incredible efforts and achievements on our own soil” and “have the opportunity to develop new solutions in addressing the ongoing challenges posed by HIV/AIDS in our own country and around the world,” Lee writes.
In the third post in a series by Marie Stopes International published on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Mukanga Sindazi, the outreach team leader with Marie Stopes in Zambia, discusses his work traveling through the rural Central Province to educate women and men about family planning and provide modern contraceptives. “At the family planning summit in London next week, I hope world leaders will recognize the challenges facing rural women,” he writes, concluding, “So our hope is that we can all come together to remember the girls and women of the countryside. Our hope is that they can imagine a world where, however isolated your community, having contraception is a usual thing — and not a luxury” (7/5).
Ahead of the London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examines barriers to contraceptive use in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Poor collaboration in recent years means that donors have not been aligned and, as such, there has been inadequate, inconsistent and unpredictable funding for family planning programs globally,” he states, adding, “The other recurring theme of existing barriers is the lack of information at all levels — global, national, and community level — about the health benefits of planning and spacing children and the available methods to do that.” He concludes, “[U]nderstanding the problem and barriers to planning a family is the first step in establishing an ambitious yet achievable goal and mobilizing the global community behind it” (7/5).
Noting that the Supreme Court last week upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, “mov[ing] the United States closer to the goal of health coverage for all,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tina Rosenberg reports on health care coverage in Rwanda in this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog. She writes, “The point is not that Americans should envy Rwanda’s health system,” but “Rwanda’s experience illustrates the value of universal health insurance.” “‘Its health gains in the last decade are among the most dramatic the world has seen in the last 50 years,’ said Peter Drobac, the director in Rwanda for the Boston-based Partners in Health, which works extensively with the Rwandan health system,” she continues, and she adds, “It couldn’t have happened without health insurance.”