As part of its “AIDS Turning Point” series, GlobalPost examines how the United States and its African partners are designing clinical trials at four African sites to test whether a combination of prevention methods and strategies — “notably the vaccine-like preventative effect on transmission when someone starts taking AIDS drugs, as well as the life-long protection afforded to many due to male circumcision” — could “put them on the road to a Holy Grail: the numbers of HIV infections tumbling down.”
Access to Health Services
Advocates In Sri Lanka Call For Change To Laws That Criminalize, Stigmatize Sex Work, Same-Sex Relationships
“Sri Lanka has long enjoyed a low 0.1 percent HIV prevalence but, as the number of fresh infections rises steadily, experts are calling for a change in the country’s archaic laws that make sex work illegal and criminalizes homosexual activity,” Inter Press Service reports. “In the first quarter of the current year there were 40 new cases of HIV compared to 32 and 27 in the first quarters of 2011 and 2010 respectively, according to the National STD/AIDS Control Programme (NSACP),” the news service notes, adding “an estimated 41,000 commercial sex workers (CSWs) and 30,000 men who have sex with men (MSMs)” live in Sri Lanka. “‘In the past two years new infections are seen to be rising among those below 24 years, and 50 percent of them are MSMs,’ says NSACP director Nimal Edirisinghe,” IPS writes.
“A year after independence, South Sudan is still battling a lack of staff and resources as it tries to end its distinction of having the highest maternal mortality rate in the world,” VOA News reports. “[M]ore than 90 percent of births in South Sudan happen without the help of a skilled birth attendant, and more than 2,000 women die for every 100,000 live births,” the news service notes, adding, “This makes South Sudan one of the most dangerous places in the world to have a baby.”
Though the FDA’s Monday approval of the antiretroviral drug Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection among people at risk of contracting the virus “was hailed by many as an important step in the fight against AIDS, concerns that people will incorrectly use the drug — potentially spurring drug resistance — led others to blast the agency for not laying down tougher rules,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” writes. “Instead of requiring that people prove they are HIV-negative before getting a prescription filled, the FDA slapped a boxed warning on the drug, saying it must only be used by people who have a confirmed HIV-negative test prior to getting a prescription, and then get tested at least every three months while they are using it,” the blog notes (Marcus, 7/16).
“High levels of unmet need for contraception around the world have a very negative impact on women’s and children’s health and survival as well as on the prosperity of communities and nations,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “If these women had access to dependable voluntary contraception, unintended pregnancies would fall by more than 70 percent, 100,000 fewer women would die in childbirth, and nearly 600,000 fewer newborns would die each year,” she continues, adding, “If every woman had the option to leave a two-year gap between a birth and a subsequent pregnancy, deaths of children under five would fall by 13 percent.”
Trade Agreements Could Harm Access To Antiretroviral Drugs In Asia, Pacific, Experts And Activists Warn
“Pressure on developing countries to adopt clauses affecting intellectual property rights could limit access to generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in Asia and the Pacific, experts and activists warn,” PlusNews reports. According to Steven Kraus, director of the UNAIDS program in Asia and the Pacific region, only about one-third of the people in need of treatment in the region receive it, and the long-term sustainability of even that proportion will be challenging in the current economic climate, the news service notes. Kraus said World Trade Organization (WTO) member states should take advantage of flexibilities under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to manufacture and procure generic versions of medications “to ensure sustainability and the significant scale-up of HIV services to reach people most in need,” PlusNews continues.
The WHO and FDA approve drugs to treat malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases in low- and middle-income countries, but “some of the manufacturers, predominantly Chinese and Indian firms, may be knowingly producing” poor quality medicines, according to “the conclusion of my research teams’ studies, published this week in the journal Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine,” Roger Bate, resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute and lead author of the studies, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece. “With little or no oversight, these companies may be cutting corners in the manufacturing process — or worse, watering down the active ingredient in their drugs, perhaps when the price of the raw material spikes and supply becomes harder to obtain,” he states, adding, “By exposing people to insufficient doses of the active ingredient, the drugs may also accelerate drug resistance and cause tremendous harm to whole populations in the long run.”
The London Summit on Family Planning took place Wednesday, also recognized as World Population Day. The goal of the summit was to raise money to improve access to family planning services to prevent maternal and child mortality. The following summaries describe opinion pieces that address these issues.
PEPFAR “is recommending improvements to efforts to detect [tuberculosis (TB)] in settings offering health services to pregnant women, women with HIV, newborns, and children,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The blog outlines the recommendations of the PMTCT/Pediatric HIV Technical Working Group, which said the decision to produce guidelines for integrating TB screening into maternal and child HIV programs was based on “[r]ecent studies [that] have shown that HIV-infected pregnant women are at increased risk of transmitting both TB and HIV to their infants” (Barton, 7/11).
On World Population Day, observed on Wednesday, July 11, the U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-hosted the London Summit on Family Planning. The following are summaries of blog posts addressing the summit.