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Laura Bush Discusses Foreign Aid, Work On AIDS, Cervical Cancer In ABC Interview

ABC News’ “OTUS” blog features an interview with former first lady Laura Bush, who discusses the importance of foreign aid and how she and her husband, former President George W. Bush, “will be building off the success of [PEPFAR] and continuing to work to fight AIDS in Africa and worldwide,” including “help[ing] women in developing countries screen for cervical cancer” (Karl/Wolf, 7/25). Laura Bush is scheduled to speak at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Thursday, and a webcast of the session, “Leadership in the AIDS Response for Women,” will be available online from the Kaiser Family Foundation (7/26).

AIDS 2012 Plenary Speakers Call For Expanded Efforts To Provide HIV Treatment, Prevention To Women, Children

AIDS experts speaking at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Wednesday called for an expansion of HIV care and treatment to all women instead of focusing only on those who are pregnant, the Associated Press reports. While many countries have programs to treat pregnant women with HIV infection with antiretroviral treatment (ART) to lessen the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, UNICEF Senior Programme Adviser Chewe Luo said at the plenary session that most countries do not continue providing ART after mothers wean their infants, the news service notes, adding, “She praised Malawi for starting to do just that” through a treatment initiative called Plan B+ (Neergaard, 7/25). According to the Guardian, the plan would add an additional $300 million to global treatment costs, but “people with HIV on treatment become far less likely to infect their partners, as well as their babies, so the additional outlay may be considered a good investment.” Luo said discussions with PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria about funding such programs are underway, the newspaper notes (Boseley, 7/25). In a satellite session on Tuesday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “commended countries and their international partners for recent progress in preventing new HIV infections among children and saving mothers’ lives,” health-e news reports (7/25).

Sierra Leone Has Made Progress In Improving Maternal, Child Health Care, But ‘Much More To Do’

“Just two years ago, our country had one of the worst maternal and infant death rates in the world,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma writes in a Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog post, adding, “We knew something had to be done.” So in September 2009, the government announced “that all health user fees would be removed for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five” and “introduced the Free Health Care Initiative [FHCI] in April 2010, which would give around 460,000 women and a million children a much better chance of having a longer and happier life,” Koroma writes. In one year, the FHCI facilitated a “214 percent increase in the number of children attending outpatient units” and a 61 percent reduction in “the number of women dying from pregnancy complications at facilities,” and “increased the number of health workers and ensured they were given big salary rises to reflect the importance of their positions,” he notes.

U.N. Adopts Resolution On Young People’s Sexual And Reproductive Rights

This RH Reality Check post by the International Planned Parenthood Federation Western Hemisphere Region (IPPFWHR) examines a “resolution in support of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights” adopted recently by member states at the 45th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD). According to the post, “[k]ey points of the final resolution include: The right of young people to decide on all matters related to their sexuality; Access to sexual and reproductive health services … that respect confidentiality and do not discriminate; The right of youth to comprehensive sexuality education; Protection and promotion of young people’s right to control their sexuality free from violence, discrimination and coercion” (5/3).

U.N. Says Asia Pacific Region Making Strides Against HIV/AIDS, Must Address Social And Legal Barriers To Treatment, Prevention

The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (ESCAP) on Monday in Bangkok “opened a three-day meeting lauding impressive gains in recent years in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” but the body cautioned “there are still legal and social barriers that significantly set back eradication efforts,” VOA News reports. U.N. ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer “note[d] the gains are uneven and there are still gaps in the goal of universal access to HIV treatment,” the news service writes.

Guardian Blog Interviews Researcher Regarding Artemisinin Synthesis Discovery

In this post in the Guardian’s “The Observer,” Mark Honigsbaum, a research associate at the University of Zurich’s Institute for Medical History, interviews Peter Seeberger, the director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, about a recent announcement that Seeberger and colleague François Lévesque “have discovered a simple and cost-effective way of synthesizing artemisinin from the waste products of the” sweet wormwood plant from which it is extracted. Honigsbaum notes that “extracting artemisinin is expensive and because it takes time to cultivate the plant there are often bottlenecks in supply,” and writes, “Their discovery has the potential to make the drug more affordable for the 225 million people affected by malaria every year” (2/4).

Action Needed To Reach Ambitious Targets Set Forth In President’s World AIDS Day Speech

President Barack Obama’s December 1 World AIDS Day speech “could be pivotal, but only if it is followed by changes in how we tackle global AIDS,” Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, writes in this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece. “Obama signaled a renewed U.S. commitment to funding for global AIDS programs at a time when resources at home are constrained and other countries are backing away from the fight,” he writes, adding, “Now it’s time to plot a course for implementing the president’s vision.”

Economic Transformation In Latin America An Opportunity To Improve NTD Strategies, DNDi Regional Director Says

“The rise of emerging economies in Latin America is an opportunity to improve strategies for fighting neglected illnesses and increase the region’s contribution to the global struggle against them, says” Eric Stobbaerts, the Latin America director of the independent Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Inter Press Service reports. “Our region is going through a major transformation in economic and social terms,” Stobbaerts told IPS after a meeting on “Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases” (NTDs) held in London on January 30, “mentioning the progress that has been made in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico,” IPS writes.

Health Status Of Indigenous Populations Across Asia Unknown, Putting Them At Risk, Experts Say

“The health of millions of indigenous people across Asia is at risk, experts say, as lack of recognition of their legal status hinders data collection, making their medical problems invisible in most national health surveys,” IRIN reports. “Indigenous peoples — defined by the U.N. as people with ancestral ties to a geographical region who retain ‘distinct characteristics’ from other parts of the population — rank disproportionately high in most indicators of poor health, according to the U.N. Secretariat Department of Economic and Social Affairs,” the news service adds.

Republican Win In 2012 Election Could Spell End Of International Family Planning Programs

“If a Republican becomes president, … say goodbye to international programs providing birth control to women in desperately poor countries such as Liberia,” senior contributing writer Michelle Goldberg writes in this Daily Beast opinion piece. Goldberg notes that birth control has become a “significant issue in the U.S. presidential campaign,” writing, “All of the Republican candidates have slammed the administration’s refusal to give religious institutions a broad exemption from the mandate that insurance cover family planning.”