NPR’s “Shots” blog examines the “test and treat” approach to HIV care and prevention, which “relies on the fact that taking HIV drugs dramatically reduces a person’s risk of transmitting the virus to others,” and, “[a]s more and more people are put on medication, the epidemic theoretically should fizzle out.” The blog continues, “Test and treat sounds good on paper, but some doctors and policymakers have doubts about its feasibility on a large scale.”
Access to Health Services
In Foreign Policy’s “Passport” blog, Associate Editor Uri Friedman reflects on former President George W. Bush’s efforts against AIDS, highlighting PEPFAR, which he “established in 2003 and which now supports antiretroviral treatment for 4.5 million people around the world.” Friedman quotes former President Bill Clinton, who, speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, said, “I have to be grateful, and you should be too, that President George W. Bush supported PEPFAR. It saved the lives of millions of people in poor countries.” Friedman continues, “[W]hat’s particularly notable about the reference is that, during a convention season designed to draw sharp distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, the two parties have found common ground on at least one point: the success of Bush’s efforts to fight AIDS.”
Sudanese Refugee Camps See Improvement In Water, Food Provisions, But Concerns Remain Over Disease Threats, Overcrowding
“Aid agencies say water and food provision has improved in four camps housing more than 105,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State, but flooding, disease and an influx of additional refugees pose new threats,” IRIN reports, noting, “Sudan’s government forces and rebels have been fighting in Blue Nile State since September 2011, sending refugees south.” U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Emergency Health Coordinator Pilar Bauza “says refugees have suffered respiratory and diarrheal diseases, malaria and malnutrition from poor living conditions and nutrition,” the news service writes. “Health education campaigns, an increase in water provision from 10 to 13 liters per day, and a drop in malnutrition from 40 to 33 percent have improved the health of the refugees, but more needs to be done,” according to IRIN.
“An infant’s first moments and the twenty-eight days that follow are the most precarious, and her risk of death is never higher,” but “[s]imple and inexpensive techniques, … such as drying her, clearing her airway, keeping her warm or using a simple ventilation device to stimulate her breathing, can help,” and frontline health workers “deliver these lifesaving techniques,” Sharon D’Agostino, vice president of worldwide corporate contributions and community relations for Johnson & Johnson, and Winifred Mwebesa of Save the Children write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. They discuss the “Helping Babies Breathe” education initiative that trains health workers on skills such as resuscitation. The authors continue, “Frontline health workers are our global health heroes but, according to World Health Organization, we do not have nearly enough of them, especially in Africa, where there may be fewer than two trained doctors for every 1,000 people.”
“Eighty-six percent of HIV-positive people in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] have no access to antiretrovirals, medical charity Doctors Without Borders said Wednesday,” calling the “conditions of access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS … catastrophic,” Agence France-Presse reports (1/25). Approximately 15,000 people living with HIV in the DRC “likely will die waiting for lifesaving drugs in the next three years,” the organization, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said, the Associated Press reports. A statement from the organization “called for Congo’s government to meet its commitment to provide free treatment to people living with HIV and AIDS, and for donors to immediately mobilize resources ‘to ensure that patients waiting for ARV treatment are not condemned to die,’” according to the AP. Of an estimated 350,000 people in need of antiretroviral treatment, only 44,000 are receiving therapy, the AP notes (Mwanamilongo, 1/25).
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof continue to answer readers’ questions in this second installment on Kristof’s “On the Ground” blog. Gates and Kristof answer questions about corruption and contraception in Bangladesh, where Gates recently visited, and why more efforts are not being concentrated on children in the U.S. (1/11).
“There would be more than 4.4 million more people in South Africa if it were not for the AIDS pandemic, according to a survey released on Monday” by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), SAPA/News 24 reports (1/23). Without AIDS-related deaths, the population would have been 55 million today, instead of 50.6 million, where it currently stands, and “[b]y 2040 the population would have reached 77.5 million — a whopping 24 million people more than is currently projected,” according to the study, GlobalPost notes (Conway-Smith, 1/23). “The survey is based on data sourced from the Actuarial Society of South Africa and the Institute for Futures Research,” SAPA/News 24 writes (1/23).
Speaking on Saturday at the African Union Summit, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said huge advances in HIV treatment and prevention have been made over the past decade in Africa, “[b]ut these gains ‘are not sustainable,’ … because they are heavily dependent on foreign aid,” the Zimbabwean reports (1/30). “An estimated two-thirds of AIDS expenditures in Africa come from international funding sources, according to a new UNAIDS issues brief titled “AIDS dependency crisis: sourcing African solutions” (.pdf), Xinhua writes (1/29).
Frontline Health Workers Coalition Launches Initiative To Add 1M Health Care Workers In Developing Countries
The Frontline Health Workers Coalition — which consists of 16 major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Family Care International, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, and RESULTS — has launched “a new initiative to add one million health care workers in developing countries,” VOA News reports, adding that the “Coalition says training more community-level workers is the most cost effective way to save lives, speed progress on global health threats and promote U.S. economic and strategic interests” (DeCapua, 1/11). “The Coalition, which launched today with the release of a new report (.pdf) focusing on the need for frontline health workers, is calling on the U.S. administration to train and support an additional 250,000 new frontline health workers — and to better support the capacity and impact of existing workers where the need is greatest,” a Coalition press release (.pdf) states (1/11).
Researchers in this PLoS Medicine article examine the efforts necessary to reach the WHO goal of reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk to less than five percent in Zimbabwe. They conclude, “Implementation of the WHO [prevention of MTCT (PMTCT)] guidelines must be accompanied by efforts to improve access to PMTCT services, retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to approach the ‘virtual elimination’ of pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe,” according to the study (Ciaranello et al., 1/10). A Massachusetts General Hospital press release states the research “should help with the planning of expanded programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas with limited health resources” (1/10).