“Between 1970 and 2010, most emerging countries achieved impressive gains in contraceptive coverage,” but, “[b]y contrast, many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries … have started their contraceptive revolution very late and progress to date has been minimal,” John May, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Jean-Pierre Guengant, researcher emeritus at the Research Institute for Development (IRD) in Marseille, France, write in CGD’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “The widespread belief in SSA that ‘development was the best contraceptive’ has been the major reason why countries did not launch organized family planning programs,” they write, adding, “By and large, the lack of progress in contraceptive coverage has precluded significant decreases in fertility in the region” (10/11).
Access to Health Services
“Indonesia’s government has quietly issued an order to override the patents on seven important medicines used to treat people with HIV and hepatitis B and allow cheap versions to be made by local drug companies,” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” “The ‘government use’ order was made on 3 September, but with no fanfare and, as yet, no public outcry from the pharmaceutical giants which, in the past, used to defend their patents volubly and aggressively — through the courts as well as diplomatic back-channels,” Boseley writes (10/11). Reuters notes the move “follow[s] the lead” of other Asian nations, including India and China, “that have allowed the production of cheap generic drugs that cut into the sales of global pharmaceutical companies” (Bigg/Hirschler, 10/12).
Inter Press Service examines how Mexico’s government and non-governmental organizations are working to stem the spread of HIV among people who use injection drugs. “According to a project financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria since 2011, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Mexico is 5.77 percent among intravenous drug users … compared to 0.24 to 0.3 percent in the general population aged 15 to 49,” IPS writes, noting HIV prevalence among drug users is highest in “northern Mexico, one of the areas in the country hit hardest by drug trafficking.” The news service adds “[t]here are 28 syringe exchange programs in this country of 112 million people, insufficient to serve the entire population of intravenous drug users.” IPS discusses funding shortfalls for syringe exchange programs, legal hurdles to obtaining clean injection equipment, and how the government aims to continue receiving Global Fund money through 2013 (Godoy, 10/11).
The Wall Street Journal examines how bureaucracy in India is slowing the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) in the country. The newspaper recounts the story of Rahima Sheikh, “one of 16 patients identified by Mumbai doctors to be resistant to virtually all traditional TB treatments.” The Wall Street Journal writes, “Mumbai officials have publicly pledged free treatment for Mrs. Sheikh and other, similar patients with extreme forms of drug resistance within the city’s jurisdiction,” but “Mrs. Sheikh has now become caught in the bureaucracy of India’s incomplete national network for treating the most virulent TB.”
Zimbabwean AIDS Activists March To National AIDS Council Demanding Accountability For AIDS Levy Funds
AIDS activists in Zimbabwe this week marched to the Harare headquarters of the country’s National AIDS Council (NAC) and “demand[ed] the government account for millions of dollars it is raising through an AIDS-related tax,” VOA News reports. Zimbabwe implemented the tax, meant to pay for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, in 1999, but people living with HIV say they are not receiving treatment, according to the news service. Spiwe Chabikwa, who traveled from Bulawayo to protest, said, “The demonstration is not against the government, just against corruption. … Everyone is affected; the AIDS levy is paid by everyone whether HIV-positive or not,” VOA states. In an interview with VOA, NAC Director Tapiwa Magure said, “We are up to date with our audits. There are tight controls … All I am saying is, we are more than ready to explain everything.” The news service notes the “Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has petitioned the National AIDS Council demanding that the agency release information related to how the AIDS levy is being administered” (Mhofu, 10/10).
The Financial Times has published a special report (.pdf) on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) featuring 10 articles examining issues including prevention, research, and treatment.
In a BMJ Group Blogs post, Caroline Robinson, global health advocacy manager for Results U.K., discusses the prevalence and treatment of tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant TB in Europe and provides the example of Romania. She writes, “[E]vidence brought to light in a new report [.pdf] released recently outlining the effect funding shortages will have on HIV and TB, including drug-resistant TB, in the European region suggests that Romania does not have the institutional capacity to ensure its citizens have the basic right to health. The country relies on grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which look set to end in 2013.” She continues, “[Global Fund] Board members should ensure that middle-income countries with epidemics among key populations can access critical Global Fund contributions and the E.U. and its member states must continue to provide the resources the fund requires to meet demand. Unless such support is given, countries like Romania will continue to fall further down the league tables in terms of treatment for this curable disease” (10/10).
In this post on IntraHealth’s “Global Health Blog,” Pape Gaye, president and CEO of IntraHealth, discusses the organization’s commitment to providing quality training to Kenyan health care workers made at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative meeting. “We and our partners will use information technologies designed or adapted in Kenya to create and distribute training programs to Kenyan health workers. We are especially focusing on health workers who provide much-needed services in the remote Kenyan regions of Kitui and Kisumu,” Gaye writes. Noting that “one billion people in this world who may never come in contact with a health provider in their entire lives,” he continues, “I hope that by making the information and the training available where it’s needed the most, we are giving a chance to these people, a chance to get in contact with and receive services from a health worker” (10/9).
“Wednesday (October 10th) is World Mental Health Day,” VOA News reports, noting, “The World Health Organization is using the occasion to call for an end to stigma against those who suffer from depression and other mental disorders” (DeCapua, 10/9). Depression affects 350 million people worldwide, with nearly five percent of the world’s population suffering from depression annually, according to Medical Daily (Tucker, 10/9). More than three-quarters of people living with mental health disorders reside in developing countries, BBC News notes, adding, “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eight in every 10 of those living in developing nations receive no treatment at all” (Roberts, 10/10). The WHO “warns stigma is a huge problem that prevents many people from seeking help,” VOA writes (10/9).
UNICEF and the Syrian government have agreed to expand humanitarian efforts in the country, where tens of thousands of people have been killed and up to one million people displaced since the beginning of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad 18 months ago, Reuters reports. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake “said the agency’s agreement with Syria will allow it to go beyond its Damascus operations to reach Syrians in conflict areas” and the agency “aims to vaccinate within a couple of months one million vulnerable children against diseases such as measles, he added,” the news service notes. “The deal will expand UNICEF’s partnership with more than 40 Syrian civil groups and the Syrian Red Crescent, he said,” Reuters adds (Al-Khalidi, 10/8). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “on Tuesday urged President Bashar al-Assad’s government to institute a unilateral ceasefire, and further stressed the need for other nations to halt arms deliveries to both Syrian forces and the opposition,” according to VOA’s “Breaking News” blog (10/9).