“A feeble international response to Pakistan’s second major flooding crisis in two years has left millions of people at serious risk of malnutrition and disease, aid groups warned Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), a network of the 41 largest international charities in the country, called on the international community and Pakistan to take urgent steps with the next monsoon season months away,” the news service adds. “At least 2.5 million people are still without food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care, putting them at serious risk of malnutrition, disease and deepening poverty, said the coalition of international charities,” AFP writes, adding, “Around 43 percent of affected people are severely short of food and malnutrition levels were already well above the emergency threshold in the southern provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan before the floods struck” (Gilani, 2/15).
Access to Health Services
“Burkina Faso’s Network for Access to Essential Medicines (RAME) has called on the BurkinabÃ¨ government to increase the budget allocation to the health sector to avoid interruptions to AIDS treatment,” Inter Press Service reports. “Despite an emergency plan announced in January, which will see the government spend around one billion CFA francs — two million dollars — to procure AIDS drugs in this West African country, patients and civil society groups are demanding permanent measures to ensure the availability of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and reagents,” the news service notes.
“Health officials in southern China are proposing new legislation to require real-name registration for HIV testing, a move aimed at lowering infection rates that has sparked controversy over personal privacy,” the Wall Street Journal’s “China Real Time Report” blog reports. It notes that China’s Xinhua News Agency recently reported that the legislation, proposed in China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, also would mandate people testing positive for HIV must inform their spouses and partners.
“Current negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union and India are causing serious concern in many quarters over future access to cheap generic medicines used to treat some of the world’s great public health threats: HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and also cancer,” Philippe Douste-Blazy, U.N. special adviser on innovative financing for development and chair of UNITAID, and Denis Broun, executive director of UNITAID, write in this post in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Those fears are well founded: if the E.U. and India agree on stringent patent and border measures, India’s role as the ‘pharmacy of the south’ could well come to an end,” they add.
Mobile phones are improving access to health care in the developing world, according to the series “The Future of mHealth” by Mobiledia, a Forbes contributor. “People in developing nations depend on mobile phones to access health services and prevent disease, as mobile technology creates a platform for improving health care in remote, underserved areas,” the news service writes. The article highlights public health programs in Haiti and Kenya that utilize mobile technology and notes, “Mobile banking is on the rise in the developing world, presenting another opportunity for mobile health to grow.”
The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” examines how the government of Benin “is making headway in attempts to reduce deaths from malaria” by cracking down on counterfeit treatments, offering malaria treatment free-of-charge in public clinics and hospitals, and creating “an army of ordinary citizens in the battle against preventable diseases like malaria.” The article describes a UNICEF-supported program that trains and employs local residents as community health extension workers, who often serve as the front line in providing treatment for malaria or maternal and child health care (Smith, 2/10).
Proposed Intellectual Property Agreement Between E.U., India Could Affect Generic Drug Exports, Advocacy Groups Say
The Independent examines how “[t]he cheap supply of antiretroviral drugs to people with AIDS across the world could be choked by an ‘intellectual property’ deal … being negotiated [on Friday] at the 12th E.U.-India summit in New Delhi between the President of the European Commission, JosÃ© Manuel Barroso, and the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.”
“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.
NewsOne examines HIV in the Caribbean, where one percent of the population is infected with the virus, “small in comparison to numbers found in the global scheme but significant enough to distinguish it as the second-highest region with HIV/AIDS outside of sub-Saharan Africa.” According to the article, HIV is spread primarily among populations at high risk for the disease, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people who use injection drugs.
While a focus on HIV prevention and treatment among women and children has reduced infection rates among these populations, “men have received considerably less attention in the epidemic and receive less targeted HIV prevention and treatment programs,” Edward Mills of the University of Ottawa and colleagues write in a PLoS Medicine essay, adding “Targeting men in prevention and treatment … may have a large impact on mortality, new infections, and the economic impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa.” They note that in Africa, fewer men than women access antiretroviral therapy (ART), and men “typically have higher mortality,” seek care later in the disease, and “are more likely to be lost to follow-up.”