This post in the Ministerial Leadership Initiative’s (MLI) “Leading Global Health” blog “is the fourth of a series of perspective pieces on country ownership from the ‘Advancing Country Ownership for Greater Results’ roundtable organized recently by MLI, a program of Aspen Global Health and Development.” “This fourth piece covers the comments made by several senior U.S. government officials,” including Ariel Pablos-MÃ©ndez, USAID assistant administrator; Katherine “Kemy” Monahan, deputy executive director of the Global Health Initiative (GHI); and Amie Batson, USAID deputy assistant administrator for global health (Donnelly, 1/20).
Access to Health Services
“A total of 28,000 people died of HIV/AIDS in China in 2011, and another 48,000 in the country were found newly infected by the virus, according to an official publication” released on Saturday by China’s Ministry of Health, UNAIDS, and the WHO, Xinhua/China Daily reports. “With about 780,000 people living with HIV/AIDS nationwide, including 154,000 AIDS patients, the total infection rate of the country stands at 0.058 percent, the report said,” according to the news service. “The report added that more than 136,000 AIDS patients had received anti-virus treatments by September 2011, bringing the treatment coverage rate to 73.5 percent, an increase of 11.5 percentage points compared to 2009,” Xinhua writes (1/21).
Discussing the recent reports of so-called “totally drug-resistant” tuberculosis (TDR-TB) in India, journalist John Donnelly in this GlobalPost “Global Voices” blog entry writes, “Overall, the world is treating drug-resistant TB extraordinarily poorly, and that creates more and more cases of resistant TB that aren’t being cured.” Donnelly describes his experience in Peru, where he and photographer Riccardo Venturi recently traveled at the invitation of the Japanese company Otsuka Pharmaceutical and “met with local scientists, doctors and patients to explore the scope of the struggle to fight drug-resistant TB” (1/19).
Speaking at a media briefing in Geneva on Thursday, Sheila Tlou, UNAIDS director of the regional support team for Eastern and Southern Africa, said the region is making progress in scaling up access to prevention and treatment services, including behavior change and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs, the U.N. News Centre reports. “We have to now focus on making sure that we scale up voluntary medical male circumcision, behavior change, and all those [interventions] to make sure that we reduce infections,” she said, adding that improving access to treatment also is critical, according to the news service (1/19). “‘There has been quite a lot of progress since 1997 with a 25 percent reduction in new infections in our region,’ said Tlou,” Agence France-Presse notes (1/19).
“Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has shut down two major medical centers in the Somali capital Mogadishu after two of its aid workers were shot dead by a former colleague last month, the international medical aid agency said on Thursday,” AlertNet reports. The closure of the two 120-bed centers, the largest of MSF’s 13 projects in Somalia, cuts in half the organization’s presence in the capital, the news service notes, adding that the centers have treated thousands of malnourished children and provided vaccinations or treatments to tens of thousands more patients since August 2011 (Migiro, 1/19).
The argument that “a country’s quickest way to better health for its people is economic development … is only one factor, and not the most important one, in explaining global health outcomes,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, writes in a SciDev.Net opinion piece. “The challenge is to ensure that a cheap basic package of health interventions is available to — and is used by — all,” he continues.
The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog asks whether Sierra Leone was right to ban traditional birth attendants (TBAs) from assisting deliveries 18 months ago, writing, “Although [TBAs] are often poorly trained and sometimes use unsafe delivery procedures, for most women in rural Sierra Leone they are a lifeline.” The blog writes that “some experts believe women are putting themselves at serious risk by relying on TBAs, who cannot handle obstetric complications such as hemorrhage, eclampsia and obstructed labor, conditions that account for three-quarters of maternal deaths,” but, “[i]n areas where dense jungle and impassable roads make travel nigh-on impossible, the TBAs may also be the only available helping hand.”
In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, examines the role of community health workers (CHWs), “increasingly on the frontlines of disease control in rural Africa,” in providing Africa’s rural population with access to life-saving health care. He writes, “When [my colleagues and I at the Earth Institute] began the work in the Millennium Villages in 2006, Africa’s community health workers were generally unpaid, untrained, unsupervised volunteers with no diagnostic or therapeutic capabilities. … Now the CHWs are seen to be a key part of a functioning primary health system.”
Afghan President Karzai Urges Taliban To Allow Polio Vaccination Teams Into Insurgent-Controlled Areas
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday “urg[ed] the Taliban to allow teams conducting a polio vaccination campaign access to areas under their control” and “said that whoever hampers the medical workers ‘is the enemy of our children’s future,'” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/17). “A total of 80 cases of the crippling disease were reported in Afghanistan last year — a three-fold increase over 2010, the health ministry said on Tuesday, marking a major setback in the drive to eradicate polio worldwide,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding that “Karzai appealed to religious and community leaders to persuade the insurgents to allow the immunization teams to vaccinate children” (1/17).
Counterfeit, Substandard Drugs Threaten Progress In Controlling Malaria In Africa, Researchers Report
“Hopes of controlling malaria in Africa could be wrecked by criminals who are circulating counterfeit and substandard drugs, threatening millions of lives, scientists” said in a study published in the Malaria Journal last month, the Guardian reports. “They are calling for public health authorities to take urgent action to preserve the efficacy of the antimalarials now being used in the worst-hit areas of the continent,” the newspaper adds (Boseley, 1/16). “The counterfeit medicines could harm patients and promote drug resistance among malaria parasites, warns the study, funded by the Wellcome Trust,” BBC News writes (1/16).