“In the last of its series called ‘7 Billion: Conversations That Matter,’ Aspen Institute’s Global Health and Development [on Wednesday] hosted a panel of experts based in Africa and the United States on the interconnectedness of gender issues, family planning, population, and access to safe water,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. According to the blog, “The point of the series was to ask questions about why it mattered that the world was passing the seven billion mark, and the questions [addressed] in Washington were appropriately big: Will water wars replace oil wars? What are the solutions to expand water and sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who don’t have it? And just how many people can the world support in an equitable fashion?” The blog recaps the discussion, providing quotes from several of the panelists, and writes, “The panelists kept coming back to the connections among access to water, family planning, and finding ways to use resources more efficiently” (Donnelly, 4/18).
Access to Health Services
Though HIV prevalence in Nepal has dropped from 0.45 percent in 2005 to 0.3 percent in 2012, “[p]oor understanding of antiretroviral therapy (ART) amongst health officials, clinicians and patients in Nepal could undermine [those] gains … and threaten future progress in lowering the number of new infections,” PlusNews reports. The news service interviews several Nepalese HIV/AIDS specialists about the importance of patients’ adherence to ART, how difficult travel to clinics can inhibit patients from returning for medication refills or counseling, and how “[p]olicies that neglect the comprehensive nutritional, financial, educational, and pharmaceutical needs of people living with HIV/AIDS amount to treatment illiteracy at the policy level.” PlusNews writes, “Observers fear the positive results from national HIV efforts could be diluted if tensions over the administration of HIV programs continue, and adherence issues hamper implementation” (4/17).
“During the 1990s it had taken a while for the rest of the world to wake up to the tragedy of AIDS in Africa, but belatedly the alarm call had come,” John Wright, a consultant in clinical epidemiology at Bradford Royal Infirmary in England, writes in a BMJ opinion piece. “Global funding and international action achieved something quite miraculous, bringing the most expensive and innovative drugs in the world to the poorest people on the planet; a triumph of science and health policy that made the discovery of penicillin look quaint,” he says. “The new health colonialists have come from across the globe with admirable intentions and boundless energy in a new scramble for Africa. Dozens of well meaning health providers are falling over each other to help — but crucially also to justify their efforts to their sponsors back home,” he writes.
“Three decades after the full onset of the global HIV tragedy, science appears to finally be developing preventative measures, including microbicides that would thwart infections in the first place, according to individuals at” the biennial International Microbicides Conference in Sydney, the Asia Sentinel writes. “Now, however, the challenge is to put the solution into the hands of those most susceptible to the disease,” the news service adds (Ramakant, 4/17). Researchers, advocates and funders met this week at the conference “to discuss the state of HIV prevention research,” a conference press release states.
Politico Pro examines the reaction to a speech delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a TEDxChange conference in Berlin on April 5. “Gates’s speech was primarily focused on explaining why family planning is important in the developing world,” according to the news service. Gates said lack of access to modern contraceptives is “a life and death crisis” because with family planning, the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children could be saved annually, the news service notes. “But multiple global health experts heard her comments as an intentional effort to push back on the politicization of birth control in the United States following the Obama administration’s new contraception coverage policy, which they fear could spill over into global health policy,” the news service writes. However, “Gates Foundation spokesman Chris Williams said Gates was simply reiterating her long-standing support for family planning and that viewing these remarks in light of domestic politics would be ‘using the wrong lens,'” the article notes.
Yaws, a skin and bone disease caused by a treponematoses bacterium that can cause long-term deformities, “has recently been put on WHO’s list of 17 so-called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)” and, along with Guinea worm, is “slated for eradication,” the Lancet reports. A “massive push to free the world from yaws failed in the 1950s and 1960s,” and the WHO in 1995 estimated “there were 2.5 million cases of endemic treponematoses (mostly yaws),” according to the Lancet. A study published in the Lancet in January showed a single dose of the antibiotic azithromycin was effective at curing the disease among children, a finding that “jump-started the NTD community into action,” the article states.
South Africa’s recently released “National Strategic Plan on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Tuberculosis (TB) 2012-2016” “marked an important milestone” in the nation’s fight against infectious diseases, a Lancet editorial states. “The plan [.pdf] has several broad goals: to reduce new HIV infections by at least 50 percent; to start at least 80 percent of eligible patients on antiretroviral treatment; to reduce the number of new tuberculosis infections and deaths by 50 percent; to ensure a legal framework that protects and promotes human rights to support implementation of the plan; and to reduce self-reported stigma related to HIV and tuberculosis by at least 50 percent,” the editorial notes.
Inter Press Service examines how HIV/AIDS is affecting women in western Nepal, where life in the poor region “is getting worse thanks to HIV infection brought back by men who go to neighboring India for seasonal work.” According to IPS, “Worst hit are the region’s women, many of whom have had to sell off their land and livestock to get HIV treatment for their husbands and, in many cases, for themselves.” Some women who are widowed by HIV may find work as laborers, but the “social stigma attached to HIV and fears of contracting the virus among villagers” makes life difficult for women affected by HIV/AIDS, the news service notes. The article includes quotes from several women and community health workers involved in prevention, counseling and care of women affected by the disease. “According to the government’s National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC), women in the 15-49 age group form over 28 percent of the estimated 55,000 people living with HIV in the country,” IPS writes (Newar, 4/11).
The philanthropic organization Dubai Cares has announced a $1 million donation to partner with The END Fund in the establishment “of a school-based deworming program that will treat children in Angola,” according to the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ (NTD) “End the Neglect” blog. “The END Fund’s chairman William Campbell stated that, ‘This pioneering investment in partnership with The END Fund adds further momentum behind our goal of eradicating Africa’s seven most prevalent NTDs by 2020,'” the blog notes (Patel, 4/11).
Medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has expressed concern over proposed cuts to PEPFAR under the White House FY 2013 budget proposal, “saying it will undermine the president’s own goals” of “treat[ing] six million people infected with HIV around the world by the end of 2013,” VOA News reports. While President Obama “has pledged to expand PEPFAR to include more people, his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2013 cuts more than a half-billion dollars from” bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, VOA writes.