“Health workers in Myanmar are confident that efforts to narrow the country’s huge gap between access to, and need for, life-saving medicines to treat HIV/AIDS are back on track after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria invited the country to apply for additional funding,” IRIN reports. “The agency’s coordinator for Myanmar, Eamonn Murphy, said new funds will allow the country to close a ‘treatment gap’ where only one-third of the 120,000 people nationwide who need [antiretrovirals (ARVs)] receive them,” the news service notes. “A spokesman for the Global Fund said it ‘had encouraged an application by the country for more money’ following an August visit to Myanmar by its general director,” IRIN writes. “Health officials drafted a ‘concept note’ outlining how additional funding might be used, which will be reviewed by the Global Fund’s board, Murphy said,” according to the news service, which notes, “It offers two scenarios: the first ensures 85 percent of those who need ARVs receive them by 2015; while with the second, 76 percent of people would be covered, he said.” The news service adds, “Based on feedback from the board, the government will choose a strategy for the proposal to be submitted early next year” (10/12).
Access to Health Services
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a roundtable on global health law, innovation, access and justice, hosted last week by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and Georgetown Law School. “At issue is the capacity of the pharmaceutical industry to innovate, and the potential barriers to access in a context of widespread diseases that blur the boundaries between developed and developing countries,” the news service writes, noting, “Most panelists concluded that governments should hold primary responsibility for the health of their populations” (Saez, 10/15).
U.N. Report Shows Francophone African Countries Lag Behind In AIDS Treatment; NGOs Call For Increased Funding
“Despite great progress within a short time, the 29 French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa are lagging far behind other states in the region in the battle against HIV/AIDS and need a massive increase in international aid, according to a United Nations report” (.pdf) released Friday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report — titled “Decision Point La Francophonie: No new HIV infections, no one denied treatment” and released at a meeting of the 56-member state International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) in Kinsasha, Democratic Republic of Congo — said while antiretroviral treatment coverage in IOF countries increased rapidly between 2003 and 2011, resulting in a nearly 30 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths, “an estimated 970,000 people are still waiting to access life-saving HIV treatment in IOF countries, accounting for 14 percent of the global treatment gap,” according to the news service.
“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).
“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).