The achievement of meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for safe drinking water “shows that where there is a will, it is possible to truly transform the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better,” Sanjay Wijesekera, chief of water, sanitation and hygiene for UNICEF, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress towards achieving the target is off-track, 273 million additional people gained access to drinking water since 1990,” he writes, adding, “So, we should raise our hats to the governments, organizations, communities and individuals who put great effort and resources into making this happen.”
Access to Health Services
The Wall Street Journal examines how many HIV-positive Ethiopians coming to a “squatter’s camp” at Ethiopia’s Entoto Mountain in the hopes that a spring believed to contain holy water would cure HIV instead begin treatment with antiretrovirals (ARVs). “The country’s traditional and often superstitious views toward AIDS commonly lead to exile for the disease’s sufferers,” the newspaper writes, adding, “But modern methods are gaining more purchase, in recent years resulting in a greater number of Ethiopians on antiretroviral therapy and a decline in AIDS-related deaths.”
Ukraine Security Secretary Says HIV, TB Remain Threat To Nation’s Security, Encourages Cooperation With Global Fund
Speaking about two bills concerning Ukraine’s cooperation with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Ukraine Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Andriy Kliuyev said “[t]he epidemics of AIDS and tuberculosis [TB] remain a threat to national security in Ukraine and require redoubled efforts to treat and prevent these diseases,” Interfax reports. Submitted to Ukraine’s parliament by the Cabinet of Ministers, the two bills “propos[e] to exempt from taxes and duties all transactions connected with the use of grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Ukraine,” the news agency notes. “The NSDC secretary said the state should explore every avenue to minimize the sickness rate and create conditions for the treatment and prevention of dangerous diseases, adding that the grants of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are valuable support for Ukraine,” Interfax writes (3/3).
IRIN examines ColaLife — a pilot project set to start in Zambia in September 2012 that will ship single-dose anti-diarrhea kits (ADKs) in crates of Coca-Cola bottles in an effort to increase the coverage of oral rehydration salts (ORS) for the treatment of diarrhea in children in the developing world. “Three-quarters of [diarrhea-related] deaths could be prevented with a simple course of [ORS] combined with zinc tablets, at a cost of just $0.50 per patient,” but, “despite being heavily promoted by the World Health Organization since the 1970s, fewer than 40 percent of child diarrhea cases in developing countries are treated with ORS,” the news service writes.
The “improvement and extension of health care in Africa is … being constrained by gaps in financing,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) based on research commissioned by Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Belgian subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the Financial Times’ “beyondbrics” blog reports (Wheatley, 3/1). The report, titled “The Future of Healthcare in Africa,” “discusses the continent’s traditional health care issues, such as communicable diseases or financing health care in economically difficult circumstances” and “also addresses less well-known topics, such as the threat of obesity and heart disease, the use of mobile technology, development of more preventive care, and more,” according to the Janssen website (3/1). The report “identif[ies] the key trends shaping African health care systems” and uses them “to develop [five] scenarios that depict the possible health landscape on the continent in 2022,” a Janssen press release (.pdf) states (3/1).
“In an effort to coordinate prevention and treatment of fistula across the globe, targeting outside help where it can do the most good,” the non-profit Direct Relief International has developed an interactive Global Fistula Care Map, “display[ing] more than 150 health facilities that provide fistula repair in 40 countries across Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East,” Miller-McCune reports. “‘Documenting where treatment is available is critical to providing care, raising resources, and restoring the health and dignity of women and girls living with fistula,’ Gillian Slinger, the United Nations Population Fund coordinator of the Campaign to End Fistula, was quoted in a release [.pdf] announcing the map,” the news service writes (Skenazy, 2/29).
The March issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on global shortages of medicines; a public health round-up; an article on breast cancer awareness; a research paper on interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; and a paper on the global burden of cholera (March 2012).
China’s State Council, or cabinet, on Wednesday “published the country’s AIDS Action Plan for the 12th Five-Year Program period (2011-2015) on the website of the Chinese government, http://www.gov.cn,” Xinhua/China.org.cn reports (2/29). According to the plan, “China hopes to cap the number of people living with HIV/AIDS at 1.2 million by 2015, up from around 780,000 at present,” by promoting condom use, reducing stigma and discrimination, and educating urban and rural populations, as well as local officials, about the disease, Reuters notes (Blanchard, 2/29). In addition, the plan aims to implement interventions among people at higher risk of infection, such as drug users, and increase the rates of HIV testing and treatment, according to Xinhua (2/29).
“A typhoid outbreak that began in Harare last year is steadily spreading across Zimbabwe with more than 3,000 cases reported although only one death due to the disease has been reported so far, health officials have said,” ZimOnline reports (Marimudza, 2/29). “We have reported 203 new typhoid cases this week only … So we actually have an outbreak that is raging,” Ministry of Health Epidemiology and Disease Control Director Portia Manangazira told VOA News, according to the news service (Gonda/Chifera, 2/28). Speaking to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare on Tuesday, Manangazira “said the ministry did not have adequate supply of drugs for patients,” NewsDay notes (Chidavaenzi, 2/29).
“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).