Fifteen million infants, or nearly one in 10 worldwide, “are born premature every year, and 1.1 million of those infants die, according to a U.N.-sponsored report released Wednesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborn infants and is on the rise globally, said the report led by the March of Dimes, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization,” the news service writes (5/2). “For the report, preterm was defined as 37 weeks of completed gestation or less, the standard World Health Organization definition,” USA Today notes (Healy, 5/3). According to the report, “[p]reterm births account for 11.1 percent of the world’s live births, 60 percent of them in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” and, “[i]n the poorest countries, on average, 12 percent of babies are born too soon, compared to nine percent in higher-income countries,” the U.N. News Centre writes (5/2).
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The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog rounds up results presented at a late breaker session at last week’s 2nd International Treatment as Prevention Workshop in Vancouver. The blog notes the session “offered some interesting insights relevant to HIV treatment scale up” (Lubinski, 4/30).
“The world is falling behind in its pledge to reduce HIV/AIDS infections and improve treatment, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a U.N. report [.pdf] released Monday” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Associated Press reports. The report to the U.N. General Assembly “said that ‘critical challenges remain’ if the world is to make good on promises made at a U.N.-sponsored meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011,” the AP writes (Alt Powell, 4/30). “Among the targets set by the international community at the June 2011 high-level meeting are the elimination of new HIV/AIDS infections in children, cutting sexually transmitted infections by 50 percent, and delivering antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people,” Xinhua/China Daily notes (5/1).
In a Foreign Policy opinion piece, former U.S. Ambassador Jack Chow, who served as a special representative for HIV/AIDS under former Secretary of State Colin Powell and currently is a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College of Public Policy, examines the challenges of delivering humanitarian aid and how “[t]he technological versatility of airborne drones, the flying robots that are already transforming warfare, … has the potential to revolutionize how humanitarian aid is delivered worldwide.” He describes the work of several start-up companies looking to employ drones for such a purpose, saying “waves of aid drones might quickly deliver a peaceful ‘first strike’ capacity of food and medicines to disaster areas.”
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog continued its coverage of the 2nd International Treatment as Prevention Workshop in Vancouver. One post describes a presentation by Zunyou Wu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who “offered … new information about China’s response to new evidence on treatment as prevention” (Lubinski, 4/25). A second post discusses a presentation by Vladimir Novitsky of the Harvard School of Public Health, who “offered … a snapshot of a four-year treatment as prevention study planned for Botswana (Lubinski, 4/25). “Chewe Luo, a senior adviser for UNICEF, discussed efforts to eliminate vertical HIV transmission from the perspective of treatment as prevention,” according to a third post (Lubinski, 4/26). Finally, Stephen Lawn of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine “reminded the audience … that antiretroviral therapy (ART) goes a long way to protect HIV-infected individuals from tuberculosis (TB),” a fourth post notes (Lubinski, 4/26).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, discusses including contraception on the global health agenda. “I have learned a lot from following the reaction to the talk I gave at TEDxChange two weeks ago,” she writes, adding, “Because I’m so passionate about the issue, I’m excited to see so many people talking about it online. The more people talk, I think, the more they’ll realize how much agreement there is around the basic argument that birth control saves lives and helps families build a better future.” She concludes, “I believe in giving women the methods they want to use so they can do what’s best for themselves and their families. … I hope we can agree that there really is no controversy around this idea” (4/26).
Lack Of Awareness, Cultural Beliefs, Transport Challenges Leading To High Number Of Maternal Deaths In Ethiopia, Officials Say
“A lack of awareness of the importance of skilled hospital deliveries in Ethiopia, cultural beliefs, and transport challenges in rural areas are causing a high number of deaths during childbirth,” officials say, according to IRIN. “Only 10 percent of deliveries take place within health facilities, according to Ethiopia’s latest (April) Demographic Health Survey results,” the news service writes, adding, “Nevertheless, the figure is a significant improvement on six percent in the previous 2005 survey.”
Nature Outlook examines the fight against malaria in Uganda. “Uganda’s tragic failure to abate malaria has numerous political, geographic, economic and social factors — and illustrates the reality that it takes more than scientific breakthroughs and cheap drugs to solve this persistent menace,” according to the article. Nature describes how a primarily rural population, “[f]unding bottlenecks, inefficient procurement processes, transportation problems,” drug stock-outs, and a lack of health care workers affects access to care and treatment for malaria, as well as how aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and other donors is supporting programs to build sustainable solutions to fighting the disease (Newmen, 4/25).
“Southern African governments could use public spending in their battle against the extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS in their countries and still achieve a positive economic impact, argues a new paper [.pdf] from the African Development Bank (AfDB),” an AfDB press release states. The paper, titled “The Role of Fiscal Policy in Tackling the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Southern Africa,” examines the cases of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, which have the highest adult HIV prevalence in the world, and says these countries could increase productivity and gross domestic product (GDP) through “[g]overnment fiscal action on HIV/AIDS treatment,” according to the press release. “Acting optimally, the debt burden of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland could be alleviated by five percent, one percent and 13 percent of GDP respectively, says the report,” the press release states (4/25).
Wednesday, April 25, marked World Malaria Day, which this year had the theme “Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria.” The following blogs address the fight against malaria.