“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).
Access to Health Services
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 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.
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.
Vatican Official Calls On International Community To Provide 'Free, Efficient' HIV Treatment In Africa
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state and number two official, “called Friday on the international community to provide ‘free and efficient treatment’ for AIDS in Africa, starting with pregnant women, mothers and their babies,” Agence France-Presse reports (6/22). During a conference sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, which operates the DREAM program (Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition) in 10 African countries, “Bertone said the results of DREAM and research by the World Health Organization ‘confirm that universal access to care is achievable, scientifically proven and economically feasible,'” the Catholic News Service writes.
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog summarizes an event held Thursday, titled “AIDS-free Generation? Not Without Women,” that was sponsored by the National Council of Women’s Organizations. The session aimed “to draw attention to pivotal issues surrounding the impact of AIDS on women worldwide” ahead of the International AIDS Conference, the blog states. Speakers at the event included Katherine Fritz, global health director at the International Center for Research on Women, and Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health And Gender Equity (CHANGE), according to the blog, which notes “CHANGE recently released two reports on the implementation of the Global Health Initiative and reproduction health care in Guatemala and Ethiopia, concluding that GHI principles could be used to enhance services and conditions in both countries” (Barton, 6/22).
“Progress in ensuring that women in poor countries have access to modern methods of contraception has stalled,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the United Nations Population Fund and the Guttmacher Institute, BMJ reports. The study “found that this year 645 million women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years) are using modern methods of contraception in the developing world, 42 million more than in 2008,” but “this rise is less than half the increase of 100 million between 2003 and 2008,” the journal writes.
Reuters examines how the fight against malaria in Africa is helping to fuel the continent’s economic growth. “The number of malaria deaths has fallen dramatically in the last decade due to increased aid spending on basic items such as insecticide-treated bed nets and drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) says,” the news agency writes, noting that an experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline is showing prospect. The news agency discusses the efforts of AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest gold producer, to prevent and treat malaria among its workers, which “‘made economic sense because of the absenteeism and the cost of medication,’ said Steve Knowles, the head of AngloGold’s anti-malaria operations.”
Growing Number Of Countries Adopting Flexible IP Regulations After India Issues Country's First Compulsory License
“A growing number of countries are adopting India’s intellectual property regulations, which give enough flexibility to local companies to produce generic versions of popular drugs to safeguard public health,” India’s Economic Times reports, noting, “In March, India issued the country’s first compulsory license, allowing [Natco Pharma] to legally manufacture and sell a low-cost version of German drugmaker Bayer AG’s patented cancer drug, Nexavar, at 3 percent of the original medicine’s price on the grounds that Bayer’s drug was not meeting public health requirement.” The news service writes, “Although multinational companies have criticized India for being lax in enforcing intellectual property (IP) laws, countries such as China, Argentina, and the Philippines are adopting similar provisions.”
“As the London family planning summit looms closer, the debate begins over how much money is needed, what it should pay for and whether the fundamentally important issues of women’s reproductive rights will be addressed,” Sarah Boseley, health editor of the Guardian, writes in her “Global Health Blog.” Highlighting a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, which “assesses the scale of the unmet need for contraception,” she writes, “This report puts numbers and dollars into the frame ahead of the summit where the [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation], [Department for International Development (DfID)], and others will be hoping big fat money pledges will be made, in the same way that the vaccines summit in London attracted massive donations — more money was raised than was hoped for.”