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Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).

London Summit On Family Planning Poised To Provide 'Staggering' Results

The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).

Inclusion Of Water, Sanitation In Rio+20 Discussions 'Refreshing'

In this post in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, Helen Hamilton, policy adviser for neglected tropical diseases at Sightsavers, reflects on the Rio+20 conference, “which took place last week in Brazil to discuss how the world can develop more sustainably.” She writes, “Following three long days of discussions on water, climate change and other sustainable development topics to advocate for this group of debilitating diseases, I left feeling there were some hopeful signs.” She discusses the final outcome document from the conference, titled “The Future We Want,” (.pdf) and writes that “with 2.5 billion people not having access to adequate sanitation it was the evolution from just discussing the right to access water to discussing water AND sanitation that was so refreshing” (6/28).

Melinda Gates Discusses Access To Contraceptives On 'The Colbert Report'

“As a young woman, I felt confident in my future because I knew I had the power to plan my family,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “What if every girl and woman in the world, even the poorest, had the opportunity to determine her future?” she asks and provides video footage of her addressing this question on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Wednesday. “Surely, there’s no controversy in all of us coming together to help women and girls lead healthy and productive lives,” she writes and asks readers to “pledge [their] support around the uncontroversial idea that every girl and woman deserves the opportunity to determine her future” (6/28).

Recognizing The Role Of The Health Care Worker In Providing Family Planning Services

In this post in the RH Reality Check blog, Laura Hoemeke, director of communications and knowledge management at IntraHealth International, writes that it “take[s] a health worker, or more accurately millions of health workers, to meet the need that hundreds of millions of couples worldwide have for family planning,” adding, “A…

Health Worker Training Programs Working To Improve Women's Health In Afghanistan

“Women in Afghanistan are 70 times more likely to die in childbirth than from a bullet or a bomb, according to Save the Children,” CNN reports, adding that is “a grim statistic the women here are trying to change.” In the article and an accompanying video, the news service describes a midwife-training program at the Ghazanfar Institute of Health Sciences in Kabul and “a pilot program in Guldara District [that] teaches volunteers how to become community health workers.” However, “sustaining and spreading initiatives such as this one will take even more investment from the international community,” CNN writes (Jamjoom, 6/27).

USA Today Features Q&A On Truvada's Potential As Prevention Tool

USA Today features a Q&A on Truvada, an antiretroviral drug that a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel in May recommended be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. The newspaper includes comments from different experts on the drug, saying implementation and cost are two major hurdles to its use for PrEP. Carlos del Rio, chair of the Emory Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health, co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research, and a board member at HIVMA (the HIV Medicine Association), said that if the drug is approved for use as a prevention tool, “I don’t think, honestly, in the short term, this is going to have much impact in the U.S., much less globally. … It’s a tool, but at the current price of up to $14,000 a year per individual, it’s simply not possible to think this will have an immediate impact in the epidemic globally,” according to the newspaper. The FDA is expected to make a decision later this summer, USA Today notes (Manning, 6/25).

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Discusses Lessons Learned From U.S. Response To HIV/AIDS Worldwide

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby “discussed lessons learned from the U.S. response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past decade at an event hosted by the Brookings Institute Monday morning,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “While calling recent scientific advances in HIV prevention ‘game changers’ that have offered hope of an AIDS-free generation, [Goosby said] that the successful fight against the epidemic relies on recognizing AIDS-specific efforts so far as a foundation for further health gains, on country ownership, and on continuing to build ‘the shared responsibility’ of a multi-donor response,” the blog adds.

Myanmar Government Should Shift Funding Away From Military Into Health Care

Burma, also known as Myanmar, “seems to be making the difficult and fragile transition from military dictatorship to fledgling democracy,” but the country has “some of the worst health indicators in the world,” a Lancet editorial states. “[T]he military retains a strong presence in regions of ethnic tension, and health and human rights abuses are certain to continue without adequate monitoring,” it continues.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.