In this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Judit Rius Sanjuan, a lawyer from Barcelona, Spain, and the U.S. manager of the Access Campaign at Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade agreement that currently involves 11 countries but could expand to include other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, “threatens to set a dangerous precedent with damaging implications for developing countries where MSF works, and beyond.” “Negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the agreement outline U.S. aggressive intellectual property (IP) demands that that could severely restrict access to affordable, life-saving medicines for millions of people,” she writes, concluding, “At this pivotal moment in the fight against AIDS, when the scientific, medical and policy tools needed to reverse the epidemic are finally at hand, … the U.S. government’s demands in the TPP will threaten so much of what has been achieved so far, and will make the vision of an AIDS-free generation impossible, or at least much more expensive” (8/7).
Access to Health Services
Inter Press Service reports on the successful efforts of Tanzania’s Kigoma Region “to train assistant medical officers to conduct life-saving c-sections at its rural health centers,” allowing pregnant women with complications to deliver at more local facilities instead of having to travel to regional or district hospitals. Tanzania’s maternal mortality rate is high, at 578 deaths for every 100,000 live births, IPS notes. “[A]t one point the Kigoma Region had the highest rate in the country, at 933 per 100,000 live births in the early 1980s,” but “maternal mortality in this region [now] is considered to be lower than in the rest of the country,” according to the news service.
“The United Nations has urged the Philippines to pass a bill that will allow the government to provide free contraceptives,” BBC News reports (8/5). “UNFPA country coordinator Ugochi Florence Daniels said the [reproductive health (RH)] bill is important for the Philippines to achieve its health-related targets in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” including maternal health, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality, the Philippine Star writes (Crisostomo, 8/4). “The House of Representatives plans to decide Tuesday whether to end debate on the bill and put it to a vote,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times notes (Gomez, 8/5).
Science looks back at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), which ended last week in Washington, D.C., writing, “The battle against HIV is having more success than ever. … But several presentations made clear that a gulf separates aspirations from reality when it comes to ‘ending AIDS,’ which [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and many other prominent speakers at the conference emphasized was now possible.” Though more people are on antiretrovirals (ARVs) now than ever, low- and middle-income countries are spending more on HIV/AIDS, and “attempts to find a cure — long viewed as a fantasy — now lead the scientific agenda,” most “of the 34 million HIV-infected people in the world do not take ARVs, many receiving treatment have trouble staying on the medication, … new infection rates continue to climb in key populations,” “[n]o AIDS vaccine is on the horizon,” and “funding shortfalls loom for global programs,” Science writes, quoting several speakers at the conference and providing more detail on the successes and challenges in the response against HIV/AIDS (Cohen, 8/3).
“The United States announced Thursday it would hike its humanitarian aid to Syria, adding another $12 million to provide food, water, medicine and other necessities for battered and displaced people” affected by violence in the Syrian conflict, the Los Angeles Times blog “World Now” reports. “The increase approved by the Obama administration brings American humanitarian assistance in Syria to more than $76 million, including $27.5 million to the World Food Programme [WFP], roughly $18 million for the United Nations refugee agency and the rest split among other U.N. funds and non-profit groups,” the blog writes (Alpert, 8/2).
Noting that this week’s issue of the Lancet explores the theme of “[a]ccess to beneficial health technology, including essential medicines and medical devices, for those most in need,” a Lancet editorial states, “Maximizing use of current health technologies (drugs, devices, biological products, medical and surgical procedures, support systems, and organizational systems) is essential to improving global health.” Collaboration between the journal and Imperial College London has resulted in a new Commission on technologies for global health, which examines different ways to broaden the use of new technologies, from bringing down cost to making them more culturally acceptable, the editorial notes.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released two reports on issues related to global health. In “Ensuring Drug Quality in Global Health Programs,” the agency writes, “Concerns have been raised about the potential for substandard drugs to enter the supply chains of global health programs,” and notes that it concluded, “U.S.-funded global health programs have put regulatory and policy requirements in place to help prevent procurement of substandard drugs” (8/1). In another report looking at the WHO, titled “Reform Agenda Developed, but U.S. Actions to Monitor Progress Could be Enhanced,” GAO found, “The United States has provided input into WHO’s reform agenda, particularly in the areas of transparency and accountability, but the Department of State’s (State) tool for assessing progress in the area of management reform could be enhanced” (7/23).
BBC News reports on a $15 million college in northern Nigeria’s Jigawa state that is working to train nurses and midwives. The first class of the three-year program is expected to graduate in September, and “[t]he hope is these new nurses and midwives will stay in Jigawa’s villages once their training is complete, rather than drifting to towns and cities where the work is usually better paid,” BBC notes, adding, “The college represents a start in addressing what has been a gaping lack of resources.” Four years ago, there were 14 midwives trying to serve “the state’s population of 4.5 million people” and “cover more than 600 small health centers,” BBC continues. However, a British-funded project called Paths 2, which aims “to reduce the state’s high level of preventable deaths among pregnant women,” has helped facilitate the creation of training programs for local health care workers, the news service notes (Dreaper, 8/2).
The XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place last week in Washington, D.C., “ignited momentum to shift from ‘fighting AIDS’ to ‘ending AIDS,'” Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health adviser at Oxfam International, and Urvarshi Rajcoomer, policy and advocacy adviser at Oxfam in South Africa, write in a Mail & Guardian opinion piece. “Oxfam believes investing in health systems such as infrastructure and health worker, drug supply chain and health information systems, is a critical prerequisite to ending AIDS,” they write. However, “to make this a reality,” pharmaceutical companies, donor governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank “must now do their part,” they continue.
On the first stop of a 10-day tour of Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped at the Phillipe Maguilen Senghor Health Center in Dakar, Senegal, where Awa Marie Coll-Seck, the country’s minister of health, “explained to Secretary Clinton how these operational centers dramatically improve maternal and child health,” according to a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” Coll-Seck “also noted that USAID-supported distribution of insecticide impregnated mosquito nets across the country had drastically reduced the incidence of malaria,” according to the blog, which adds that Clinton “was pleased to hear that the United States is playing a key role in helping meet one of its biggest challenges: decentralizing services so they are available at the village level throughout the country.” In an address several hours later, “Clinton invoked the Senghor center … saying she was highly impressed by the integrated nature of the facility” and that “[i]t was a successful model she hoped could be duplicated throughout Senegal and the entire West African region” (Taylor, 8/1).