“At present, the prevailing strategy for improving access to medicines for [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)] is drug donation programs, which, despite providing some of the highest economic returns of public health programs … have uncertain sustainability,” Francesca Holt of St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge and colleagues write in this PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases opinion piece. “Countries in demographic and economic transition are uniquely poised to be leaders in a shift towards a more sustainable, affordable means of providing access to medicines for NTDs,” they add, citing China, India, and Brazil as examples (2/28).
Access to Health Services
In an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday, Francis Adatu, head of the national leprosy and tuberculosis (TB) program in Uganda, warned that TB “remains a major public health problem” and that multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) has emerged in the country, the news service writes. “‘According to our prevalence survey we found MDR-TB in 1.3 percent among new cases and 12.3 percent among people who have been exposed to drugs or treated over and over again,’ Adatu said,” Xinhua writes, noting that Adatu said treatment for MDR-TB was much more expensive than for drug-susceptible TB.
Two new reports from southern Africa’s Health Systems Trust show that pregnant women, infants, and people newly diagnosed with HIV infection are receiving more services, but the costs of care are increasing, PlusNews reports. The annual District Health Barometer shows that about half of infants born to HIV-positive mothers are being tested for the virus at six weeks; almost all pregnant women are tested for HIV, helping to lower the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission to below four percent nationwide; and about 70 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV receive screening for tuberculosis (TB), according to the news service.
Pharmaceutical company Novartis “has spoken out following criticism about its challenge to India’s patent laws, insisting that access to life-saving drugs is not under peril by the move,” Pharma Times World News reports. The case, which the Indian Supreme Court is scheduled to hear next month, challenges “Indian patent law, notably Section 3(d), which states that a modification of a known chemical composition is non-patentable,” the news service writes.
In this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog, Brook Baker of the Northeastern University School of Law Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy, “describe[s] and comment[s] on pharmaceutical company Novartis’s court challenge to India’s strict standards of patenting medicine” and worldwide protests against the company that took place last week prior to its shareholder meeting (Mazzotta, 2/27).
“Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services, UNICEF warns in ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World,'” released on Tuesday, the agency reports in a press release (2/28). “Children in slums and poor urban communities lack access to clean water, sanitation and education, as services struggle to keep up with fast urban growth, says” the agency’s flagship report, according to AlertNet (Caspani, 2/28). The report “calls attention to the lack of data on conditions in slums, particularly as it relates to children, and it calls for a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding poverty and inequality in cities and increased political will to improve the lives of the most marginalized,” UNICEF writes in an accompanying article (2/28).
U.S. Funding To Address Basic Health In Ghana ‘Noble’ But Improving Access To Health Care Still Imperative
A joint agreement recently signed by the Ugandan Ministry of Health and the U.S. Government’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) to carry out collaborative initiatives targeted at “bringing quality health care to Ugandans” is “a significant effort that should, with proper implementation, improve health care services, particularly by reducing pregnancy-related deaths,” a Daily Monitor editorial states.
“Cash-strapped Swaziland is struggling to fund its HIV programs, and experts are warning of long-term damage to treatment and prevention schemes if steps are not taken to ring-fence funding and supplies,” the Mail & Guardian reports. About 200,000 people are living with HIV in Swaziland, nearly one quarter of the population, the newspaper notes, adding, “Until now the government has done well in terms of providing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment — achieving 78 percent coverage, just under the World Health Organization’s ‘universal coverage’ rate of 80 percent. But there are fears that uncertainty about funding streams and weak supply-chain management could result in a reversal of this progress.” The article discusses funding from the government, PEPFAR, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; antiretroviral drug and testing supply problems; and the epidemic’s effect on children and life expectancy in the country (Redvers, 2/27).
A new project developed and launched by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) aims “to address the debilitating effects of neglected tropical diseases [NTDs] in Ghana,” the Global Network for NTDs’ “End the Neglect” blog reports. The primary objective of the project, called “End in Africa — Ghana and 2012 MDAs for NTDs,” is to implement mass drug administration (MDA) to treat NTDs and clinical management of the diseases across Ghana, the blog notes, adding that the “initiative will also provide public health education to all targeted endemic NTD communities” (2/24).
In this post in PSI’s “Healthy Living” blog, Mannasseh Phiri, PSI’s country representative in Zambia, examines HIV/AIDS in Zambian prisons. Phiri reports the findings of a survey recently conducted by the IN BUT FREE (IBF) Prisons Project “to determine the extent and magnitude of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Zambia’s prisons.” He concludes, “The high prevalence of HIV in our prisons cannot and should not be ignored. We cannot hope to be able to tackle our HIV epidemic in Zambian society outside of the prisons, unless we face up to the reality of the HIV epidemic inside the prisons” (2/24).