“With its health-care system increasingly eclipsed by rivals, India has a plan to nearly double public spending on health over the next five years,” a goal that would “lift annual spending on health to 2.5 percent of the country’s economic output, from 1.4 percent,” the Washington Post reports. The scheme is “aimed at giving free medicine to all Indians at government facilities, setting up free ambulances in rural areas, doubling the number of trained health workers, and lifting millions of young children and women out of chronic malnutrition and preventable deaths,” the newspaper writes.
Access to Health Services
“[T]he United States, with its high salaries and technological innovation, is … the world’s most powerful magnet for doctors, attracting more every year than Britain, Canada and Australia — the next most popular destinations for migrating doctors — combined,” the New York Times Magazine reports in a story on how the promise of a better salary and working conditions is drawing newly trained doctors away from their countries to the U.S.
“Scientists, stymied for decades by the complexity of the human immunodeficiency virus, are making progress on several fronts in the search for a cure for HIV infections,” but “[a] major stumbling block is the fact that HIV lies low in pools or reservoirs of latent infection that even powerful drugs cannot reach, scientists told the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, one of the world’s largest scientific meetings on HIV/AIDS,” in Seattle last week, Reuters reports. “Promising tactics range from flushing hidden HIV from cells to changing out a person’s own immune system cells, making them resistant to HIV and then putting them back into the patient’s body,” the news service writes.
In a plenary presentation at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha of UNICEF examined the challenges to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation, by “eliminat[ing] 90 percent of HIV infections among children by 2015,” and “outlined the four pillars of achieving that goal,” including preventing HIV among women, preventing unintended pregnancies, preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and supporting HIV-positive women and their families, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” reports. She called for strengthening family planning programs in the context of PMTCT, prioritizing “pregnant women for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or microbicides,” implementing strategies to initiate and care for women in treatment programs, and intervening early in pregnancy, according to the blog (Lubinski, 3/7).
Odds Of Adult Mortality Lower In PEPFAR Focus Countries Compared With Non-Focus Countries, Study Shows
“In an attempt to assess the impact of U.S. international assistance for AIDS, researchers from Stanford University carried out a review of the relationship between U.S. support provided through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and adult mortality in PEPFAR focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and whether there were differences in outcome between these countries and other African countries which did not receive PEPFAR support,” NAM’s Aidsmap reports (Alcorn, 3/8). Presenting the results at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Eran Bendavid said “[s]tatistical analysis found that adults living in focus countries between 2004 and 2008 had about a 20 percent lower odds of mortality compared to adults in non-focus countries,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” writes, adding, “Evidence for unintended health effects with respect to adult mortality is inconclusive, Bendavid said, but the likelihood of PEPFAR interventions eliciting unintended harms is low” (Mazzotta, 3/7).
At the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) on Wednesday, Gabriel Chamie of the University of California, San Francisco “discussed outcomes in a routine linkage-to-care strategy versus and an enhanced strategy for accelerated antiretroviral therapy (ART) start in rural Uganda,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. In the study, a higher percentage of people who were offered the enhanced strategy received follow-up care, began ART, and remained in care, and “Chamie highlighted the need for enhanced linkage to care efforts for patients at all CD4 cell counts,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 3/7).
Nature examines how funding shortfalls are hampering global efforts to use drugs to curb the spread of HIV, writing, “[A]t this week’s annual Conference on RetroÂviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington, there was growing concern that financial austerity in the United States and elsewhere is eating away at the funding needed for a worldwide prevention effort.” The journal cites proposed reductions “to direct international aid for HIV programs under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)” in President Barack Obama’s FY 2013 budget request and an announcement by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last November that it had cancelled Round 11 grants “until 2014 because of tightening budgets in donor countries.”
The achievement of meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for safe drinking water “shows that where there is a will, it is possible to truly transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better,” Sanjay Wijesekera, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress towards achieving the target is off-track, 273 million additional people gained access to drinking water since 1990,” he writes, adding, “So, we should raise our hats to the governments, organizations, communities and individuals who put great effort and resources into making this happen.”
The Wall Street Journal examines how many HIV-positive Ethiopians coming to a “squatter’s camp” at Ethiopia’s Entoto Mountain in the hopes that a spring believed to contain holy water would cure HIV instead begin treatment with antiretrovirals (ARVs). “The country’s traditional and often superstitious views toward AIDS commonly lead to exile for the disease’s sufferers,” the newspaper writes, adding, “But modern methods are gaining more purchase, in recent years resulting in a greater number of Ethiopians on antiretroviral therapy and a decline in AIDS-related deaths.”
Ukraine Security Secretary Says HIV, TB Remain Threat To Nation’s Security, Encourages Cooperation With Global Fund
Speaking about two bills concerning Ukraine’s cooperation with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Ukraine Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Andriy Kliuyev said “[t]he epidemics of AIDS and tuberculosis [TB] remain a threat to national security in Ukraine and require redoubled efforts to treat and prevent these diseases,” Interfax reports. Submitted to Ukraine’s parliament by the Cabinet of Ministers, the two bills “propos[e] to exempt from taxes and duties all transactions connected with the use of grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Ukraine,” the news agency notes. “The NSDC secretary said the state should explore every avenue to minimize the sickness rate and create conditions for the treatment and prevention of dangerous diseases, adding that the grants of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are valuable support for Ukraine,” Interfax writes (3/3).