“China’s Health Ministry has banned hospitals from turning away patients infected with HIV/AIDS,” the Associated Press/Fox News reports. “A circular issued by the ministry on Friday ordered health authorities at all level of government to guarantee treatment for HIV/AIDS sufferers,” the news service writes (11/23). According to Xinhua, the memo “said hospitals should offer appropriate medical care to an HIV/AIDS patient whose condition is discovered during the course of outpatient, inpatient, and emergency treatments, as well as voluntary HIV/AIDS counseling and testing,” and “[h]ospitals should not send them to another hospital or refuse to treat them” (11/23). “The move comes after a 25-year-old lung cancer patient in Tianjin, a major port city south east of Beijing, was recently denied care after his status as an HIV/AIDS patient was detected, Xinhua said,” Agence France-Presse notes, adding, “Chinese authorities have been credited with increasing access to HIV/AIDS drugs for patients, though widespread discrimination is still a problem” (11/24).
Access to Health Services
“More than one-quarter of people diagnosed with tuberculosis [TB] at a clinic in India’s largest city of 18 million have a strain that doesn’t respond to the main treatment against the disease, according to preliminary data from a new diagnostic being tested,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper obtained “preliminary and not peer reviewed” data from TB clinics in Mumbai, and Puneet Dewan with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation TB program in India “said the WHO and Indian authorities are taking the data seriously because it appears to confirm other studies in recent years of similarly high rates of multi-drug-resistance, in which patients don’t respond to the two most powerful TB medicines.” According to the newspaper, “The WHO and India currently estimate India has about 100,000 of the 650,000 people in the world with multi-drug-resistance” (Anand/McKay, 11/23).
UNAIDS’ World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, said the goal of eventually ending the global AIDS epidemic “is more than merely visionary” and “is entirely feasible,” primarily because of “historic success” in scaling up HIV programs and improving access to antiretroviral drugs to treat and prevent HIV, Reuters reports (Kelland, 11/20). According to the report, “[t]wenty-five countries, many in hard-hit Africa, have at least halved new HIV infections in the past decade, with particular progress made toward protecting children from the deadly virus,” Agence France-Presse writes (11/20). “UNAIDS says that half the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborn children,” PlusNews writes. “But the epidemic is not over in any part of the world, and is gaining pace in some,” the news service continues, noting the number of new infections has increased in the Middle East and North Africa (11/20). The report “stresses that countries must dramatically ramp up both [prevention and treatment efforts] if the world hopes to meet the ambitious goals agreed upon last year at a special session of the United Nations,” ScienceInsider writes (Cohen, 11/20).
AVAC and amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, on Tuesday released the first (.pdf) in a series of quarterly reports following up on the release of the Action Agenda to End AIDS (.pdf), which was launched in July at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), according to a joint press release. “New infections and AIDS deaths continue to decline, but not at a pace sufficient to meet the global goals of halving new infections among adults and eliminating new infections in children by 2015,” the report states and looks at data in the areas of strategy, investment, accountability, research, and efficiency (11/20).
The “grand experiment” of the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — a pilot program that aims to get artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) into rural areas of several African nations — “seems likely to end, its successes underrated and potential improvements not yet explored,” a Nature editorial says. In October, “an independent evaluation found that it had performed remarkably well on the main benchmarks of success, increasing the number of outlets stocking ACTs and lowering prices,” but last week “the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria decided to end the AMFm as a stand-alone program, by integrating it into the fund’s core system for awarding malaria-control grants to countries,” the editorial notes, adding, “This integration probably spells the end for AMFm, because there will be no new money for the program after the end of next year.”
IRIN examines how the WHO’s recent declaration that the MenAfriVac meningitis A vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration will affect immunization campaigns in Africa’s meningitis belt, which runs from Senegal to Ethiopia. “As a result, very remote populations will access the vaccine more easily, the logistics of vaccine campaigns will be simpler, and vaccine campaign costs will drop both for partners and for national governments, said Michel Zaffran, coordinator of WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), and Marie-Pierre Preziosi, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between international NGO PATH and WHO,” IRIN writes. Zaffran said, “I am quite confident that within the next year or two, we’ll have one or two more [vaccines] re-licensed in this way,” according to the news service. “Analysis on the heat stability of hepatitis B and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines is under way; next on the list are yellow fever, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease,” IRIN notes (11/20).
“Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has accepted a new role with [UNAIDS] to advance efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination against those affected by the epidemic,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “She accepted the invitation to serve as Global Advocate for Zero Discrimination during a recent meeting with UNAIDS’ Executive Director Michel Sidibe at her residence in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw,” the news service notes. “It is a great honor to be chosen as a champion for people who live on the fringes of society and struggle every day to maintain their dignity and basic human rights. I would like to be the voice of the voiceless,” Suu Kyi, who is a member of parliament in Myanmar, said, according to the news service (11/20). In a statement, Sidibe said, “From small villages to big cities, from Africa to Asia, people are talking about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi … She is inspirational,” according to Agence France-Presse (11/20).
UNAIDS’ new World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, “shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people,” according to a UNAIDS press release. Between 2001 and 2011, “a more than 50 percent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries — more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV,” the press release states, adding, “In addition to welcome results in HIV prevention, sub-Saharan Africa has reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 59 percent in the last two years alone.” According to the press release, “The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children,” and the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped because of increased access to antiretroviral treatment.
Emergency Obstetric Care Reduced Maternal Mortality Rates Up To 74% In Two African Projects, MSF Reports
According to a new briefing paper (.pdf) from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), access to emergency obstetric care, including ambulance service, could help save the lives of up to three quarters of women who might otherwise die in childbirth, AlertNet reports (Batha, 11/19). In two projects, one in Kabezi, Burundi, and the other in Bo, Sierra Leone, MSF showed “that the introduction of an ambulance referral system together with the provision of emergency obstetric services can significantly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy related complications,” according to an MSF press release. The services, which cost between $2 and $4 per person annually, are offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are free of charge, the press release notes (11/19). The projects “cut maternal mortality rates by an estimated 74 percent in Kabezi and 61 percent in Bo,” Reuters writes, adding, “The charity hopes its model could serve as an example for donors, governments and other aid agencies considering investing in emergency obstetric care in countries with high maternal mortality rates” (11/19).
A “key problem” in reaching the goal of polio elimination “may well be that organizers of the global anti-polio initiative, and of other global health programs, are not listening to the people they want to help — or to each other,” Thomas Abraham, an associate professor in the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “As a result, in many communities targeted by [polio immunization] programs, people perceive a gulf between global programs like polio eradication and more immediate local health needs,” he continues, adding, “It is cold comfort to save a child from polio if the child later succumbs to malaria or diarrhea from dirty drinking water.”