In this post in Huffington Post’s “Healthy Living” blog, John-Manuel Andriote, a journalist and author living with HIV, writes, “For all of us living with HIV infection — Oct. 27 will mark seven years since my own diagnosis — the question we face daily, hopefully more consciously and deliberately than most, is how shall we live, knowing as we do that we will most assuredly die one day?” Reflecting on the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place in Washington last month, he continues, “An AIDS-free generation is certainly a worthy goal,” but “even if tens of billions of additional dollars are allocated to address HIV/AIDS, even if the Republicans don’t succeed in inflicting their Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ upon the nation and the world, the question will continue to be what it has been for 31 years … Will we have the political will to end AIDS?”
Access to Health Services
In this post in BMJ’s “Yankee Doodling,” Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist at RTI International and an associate editor for the journal, reflects on the possibility of achieving an AIDS-free generation “if somehow we succeeded in getting all HIV positive people in the world identified and under long term treatment.” He writes that while there has been “astonishing progress against AIDS,” “two concerns immediately arise: the magnitude of the work remaining to find and continuously treat all those infected, and the confusion between that treatment (even if it is somehow universally successful) and actual eradication of the disease.” He concludes, “It is a rosy scenario, but even if it came true it still would not spell the end of the HIV story,” because “[w]e have no vaccine, and the virus keeps mutating” (8/14).
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”
This Lancet editorial reflects on a medical crisis in Syria, highlighting a new report (.pdf) by Amnesty International that “documents the human rights abuses already occurring in the city.” The editorial states, “A disturbing feature of modern conflicts and, indeed, the Arab uprisings, has been the flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions, including targeting of civilians, persecution of health workers, and attacks on hospitals, alongside the failure of the U.N. system to prevent these violations,” and it highlights several examples cited in the report.
In this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog, journalist Sarika Bansal reports on a gap in surgical care in developing countries, writing, “It is conservatively estimated that 56 million people in sub-Saharan Africa — over twice the number living with HIV/AIDS — need a surgery today,” but, “across the developing world, surgical care often does not reach those who need it.” She says that a lack of access to surgical facilities and equipment, as well as a lack of trained health care workers, especially in rural areas, contributes to the problem. “Instead of finding ways to lure surgeons to rural areas” to fill this gap, many African countries, including Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia, “have started experimenting with ‘task shifting’ — that is, training non-physicians to do the basic work of surgeons,” she notes. She highlights a medical licentiate program in Zambia that “trains clinical officers in basic surgeries like hernia repairs, bowel obstruction surgery, hysterectomies and more,” as well as “the donor-funded FlySpec (Flying Specialist) program, which charters planes to conduct orthopedic surgeries in remote parts of the country” (8/8).
African Leaders, International Community Must Act On Commitments Made At London Family Planning Summit
In this UNFPA opinion piece, Babatunde Osotimehin, U.N. under-secretary-general and UNFPA executive director, and Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, reflect on last month’s London Summit on Family Planning, where “leaders from 18 African countries made unprecedented commitments — financially and politically — to strengthen their family planning programs,” and highlight “[a] new study by the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA [that] shows there has been minimal progress in addressing the contraceptive needs of African women during the past four years.” They discuss uneven progress “in meeting the demand for contraceptive services” across the continent and write, “Now it is up to all of Africa’s leaders and the international community to do their part through a sustained commitment to improving the provision of contraceptive services” (8/7).
“Methadone treatment is proving to be the most efficient way to wean people in Bangladesh from addiction to buprenorphine, a pharmaceutical drug, and health experts say it should be expanded to reach thousands more drug users to prevent the spread of HIV,” IRIN reports. The news service notes that “illegal use of pharmaceutical substances, mostly buprenorphine, is on the rise” in the country. “Buprenorphine was intended to be used to wean injecting drug users, also known as people who inject drugs (PWID), from narcotics like heroin, but has itself become a substance of addiction, with users injecting a liquid form of it,” the news service notes, adding, “Methadone, a pain reliever, suppresses withdrawal symptoms and blocks craving.”
Advocacy Groups Warn Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Affect Access To Low-Cost Medications, Bloomberg Reports
Bloomberg Businessweek examines how ongoing trade negotiations related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership could affect access to quality low-cost medications, including antiretrovirals, in low- and middle-income countries. “Protecting the patents of drug makers … as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has drawn criticism from groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Public Citizen,” and “[t]he proposed accord has also spurred calls from U.S. lawmakers for greater transparency about the negotiations,” the news service writes. “The multilateral talks, the main accord being pursued by President Barack Obama’s administration, … began with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam [and] may expand after the parties invited Canada and Mexico,” the news service notes.
“Syrians are in urgent need of life-saving medicines following an escalation in fighting, which also threatens further food shortages, U.N. agencies warned on Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/7). “Drugs for tuberculosis, hepatitis, hypertension, diabetes and cancer are urgently needed, as well as hemodialysis for kidney diseases, according to the WHO,” Reuters notes (8/7). “‘The recent escalation of clashes had resulted in substantial damages to the pharmaceutical plants located in rural Aleppo, Homs and Rural Damascus, where 90 percent of the country’s plants were located,’ a WHO spokesperson, Tarik Jasarevic, told reporters in Geneva today,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “Prior to the violence which has wracked the Middle Eastern country, Syria produced 90 percent of its medicines and drugs locally,” the news service notes (8/7).
Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).