As part of its “AIDS Turning Point” series, GlobalPost examines how the United States and its African partners are designing clinical trials at four African sites to test whether a combination of prevention methods and strategies — “notably the vaccine-like preventative effect on transmission when someone starts taking AIDS drugs, as well as the life-long protection afforded to many due to male circumcision” — could “put them on the road to a Holy Grail: the numbers of HIV infections tumbling down.”
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Though the FDA’s Monday approval of the antiretroviral drug Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection among people at risk of contracting the virus “was hailed by many as an important step in the fight against AIDS, concerns that people will incorrectly use the drug — potentially spurring drug resistance — led others to blast the agency for not laying down tougher rules,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” writes. “Instead of requiring that people prove they are HIV-negative before getting a prescription filled, the FDA slapped a boxed warning on the drug, saying it must only be used by people who have a confirmed HIV-negative test prior to getting a prescription, and then get tested at least every three months while they are using it,” the blog notes (Marcus, 7/16).
NPR’s “All Things Considered” examines HIV/AIDS treatment progress in developing countries, where the high cost of the “triple-drug regimens that were routinely saving the lives of patients in wealthier countries,” and logistical issues, such as ensuring patients would take their medication on time, led some experts to say HIV treatment was “impossible” in the earlier years of the epidemic. “But in fact, in places like Uganda and Haiti, some intrepid doctors were showing that the then-costly AIDS drug cocktails could save lives there, too,” according to the program, which profiles Francois St. Ker, a 44-year-old AIDS patient in Haiti who “was on the brink of death from AIDS when the American doctor Paul Farmer started treating him with new HIV drugs” in 2001.
In this audio report in PRI’s “The World,” PRI anchor “Aaron Schachter talks to Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher on women’s rights in Africa for New York-based Human Rights Watch, about the terrible toll of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Africa.” “Teenage pregnancy is an issue of pandemic proportions in Africa,” Odhiambo said, adding, “Teenage pregnancy is really an issue that has serious negative consequences for girls, for the development of communities and for the development of cultures.” She discussed progress toward reducing maternal deaths in various African countries and said that a number of factors contribute to maternal mortality, including a lack of sexual education for young girls, some traditional practices, such as early marriage, and the inadequate provision of health services (7/3).
VOA News profiles the recently established Vietnam Clinical HIV/AIDS Society (VCHAS), among the first professional medical organizations of any type in Vietnam. VCHAS “was set up with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control through the Harvard Medical School AIDS Initiative, as part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” VOA notes.
NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Tuesday featured an interview of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby by host Robert Siegel. Goosby discusses PEPFAR’s success at treating people living with HIV/AIDS in other countries, including Haiti, Rwanda, and Botswana, as well as the cost of treatment. Goosby said, “[I]n the time that President Obama’s administration has taken over the helm of PEPFAR, we have gone from 1.7 million people on treatment to close to four million people on treatment. Our ability to identify, enter and retain these individuals in treatment programs is mapped out. We know where we’re going. We know what groups we have to increase our testing and outreach efforts in, and I am confident we will meet all of the World AIDS Day goals with the current budget setting.” A complete transcript and audio of the interview is available online (7/3).
Gates Foundation, U.K. Government Expected To Announce Additional Funding For Family Planning At London Summit
The U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with UNFPA and other partners on Wednesday, July 11, are hosting the London Summit on Family Planning, which aims “to raise $4 billion to expand access to contraception for 120 million women in the developing world by 2020,” according to Reuters. At the summit, the Gates Foundation “is set to unveil funding a sum in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a campaign to improve access to contraception in the developing world,” the news service notes (Wickham, 7/10). In addition, the U.K. government will “pledge to donate more than one billion pounds [$1.6 billion] to help family planning services in the developing world,” the Independent writes (Pickover, 7/11). The WHO “committed to fast-track its assessment of new and existing quality contraceptives so more women in low- and middle-income countries can obtain and use a broader range of safe and effective contraceptive products,” the agency reports in a media note (7/11).
Early treatment with antiretroviral medication can significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission to an uninfected sexual partner, “[b]ut many logistical hurdles stand in the way of making this strategy feasible, affordable and effective, according to experts writing in Tuesday’s edition of the journal PLoS Medicine,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Though Science magazine hailed the finding as “breakthrough of the year” in 2011, “[e]xperts are now divided about whether the treatment-as-prevention approach can essentially halt the AIDS epidemic,” the newspaper writes (Loury, 7/11). The PLoS Medicine collection, which includes nine reviews and one research article, “provide insights into the factors which will support evidence-based decision-making in HIV prevention, with a focus on the use of antiretroviral treatment to prevent HIV transmission,” according to the collection’s homepage (7/10).
As part of its “Young people’s sexual health matters” series, the Guardian reports on a recent roundtable discussion hosted by the newspaper, in association with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), during which experts discussed key family planning issues ahead of the July 11 London Summit. “There was widespread agreement around the table that while increasing the physical supply of contraceptives to women in the developing world was crucial, it had to go hand-in-hand with better education about sex and relationships and a focus on rights,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Family planning — an unfortunate, old-fashioned term, some said — has long suffered from being associated by critics with population control” (Williams, 7/10).
Former President Bush In Zambia, Botswana To Promote Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Initiative To Fight Cervical Cancer
Former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush are traveling in Zambia and Botswana this week to promote “the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative spearheaded by his foundation that seeks to expand cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa,” CNN reports. In Kabwe, Zambia, Bush helped “refurbish a clinic used to screen, diagnose and treat cervical cancer,” and in the capital of Lusaka, he dedicated a cancer center at a university teaching hospital and met with government and health care leaders, according to the news service. On Wednesday, Bush will launch a similar clinic in Botswana, CNN notes (7/1). While in Kabwe, Bush told journalists that concerted efforts should be made to address cervical cancer, in a way similar to how HIV/AIDS is being addressed, the Times of Zambia reports (Namaiko, 7/3).