“For too long, there has been an unwritten rule that it can take 15 years or more before children in the poorest nations benefit from new life-saving vaccines in use in rich countries,” Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, writes in this post in the Independent’s “Notebook” blog. “But national celebrations in Ghana this week show how this shameful gap is rapidly being closed,” he continues, noting, “This week the rotavirus vaccine to protect against severe diarrhea and the pneumococcal vaccine which targets the primary cause of pneumonia — the two biggest killers of children — are being introduced” in the country, making it the first in Africa to roll these vaccines out simultaneously.
Access to Health Services
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).
“More than 400 Kenyan AIDS activists have demonstrated in the capital, Nairobi, demanding that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief release some $500 million for HIV programs in Kenya that is stuck in the pipeline,” PlusNews reports. “The U.S. government recently revealed that close to $1.5 billion has been in the global PEPFAR pipeline for more than 18 months,” the news service notes, adding that the allocation to Kenya is the largest. According to the news service, “The protestors presented a memorandum listing their demands to U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration, head of PEPFAR-Kenya Katherine Perry, Kenya’s Director of Public Health Shahnaz Sharif, and other senior Ministry of Health officials.”
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).
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).
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.”
Allowing Countries To Use PEPFAR Funding For Voluntary Contraception For Women Aligns With GHI’s ‘Women-Centered’ Approach
“PEPFAR has said it will use” nearly $1.5 billion in unspent aid “to invest in commodities (condoms, HIV rapid test kits and voluntary medical male circumcision kits), systems and institutions, and program strengthening,” Suzanne Ehlers, president of Population Action International, writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “Here’s one idea that would offer a huge return on investment and save the lives of millions: voluntary contraception for women,” she continues, adding, “Voluntary contraception has been called ‘the best kept secret in HIV prevention’ and has a proven evidence base.”
“[D]espite high prevalence rates of HIV among [men who have sex with men (MSM)], funding for HIV prevention, treatment and care consistently neglects these populations, often due to stigma and discrimination,” Owen Ryan, deputy director of public policy at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, writes in this guest post in the Funders Concerned About AIDS blog. “In our report, ‘Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation for Gay Men and Other MSM,’ we found that MSM are neglected and marginalized by national HIV responses throughout the world, even in countries where MSM are a significant proportion of all HIV infections,” he notes, concluding, “As a funding community, we still have more to do. Our investments can be transformative. Whether establishing best practices, funding civil society advocacy, or investing in program delivery, this funding helps establish a bridge from policy to practice and often creates the kind of pressure that makes neglecting MSM very difficult” (4/24).
“The World Health Organization heralded major gains Tuesday in the fight against malaria, one of the developing world’s biggest killers, but warned universal access to treatment remains elusive,” Agence France-Presse reports, noting, “The assessment came on the eve of World Malaria Day,” observed Wednesday and “designed to shine the light on the mosquito-borne parasite that killed 655,000 people in 2010, including 560,000 children under five” (4/24). “A massive acceleration in the global distribution of mosquito nets, the expansion of programs to spray the insides of buildings with insecticides, and an increase in access to prompt antimalarial treatment has brought down malaria mortality rates by more than a quarter worldwide, and by one-third in Africa since 2000,” but “simply maintaining current rates of progress will not be enough to meet global targets for malaria control,” the agency writes in a news release (4/24).
“Kenya’s High Court ruled on Friday that lawmakers must review legislation that could threaten the import of generic drugs, allowing Kenyans to continue accessing affordable medicine,” Reuters reports. In 2009, three people living with HIV filed a lawsuit arguing that the definition of counterfeit drugs in Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Bill of 2008 was too broad and “unconstitutional because it threatened access to life-saving generic medicine by confusing generic and fake medicine,” the news agency notes (4/20).