The March issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on global shortages of medicines; a public health round-up; an article on breast cancer awareness; a research paper on interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; and a paper on the global burden of cholera (March 2012).
Access to Health Services
China’s State Council, or cabinet, on Wednesday “published the country’s AIDS Action Plan for the 12th Five-Year Program period (2011-2015) on the website of the Chinese government, http://www.gov.cn,” Xinhua/China.org.cn reports (2/29). According to the plan, “China hopes to cap the number of people living with HIV/AIDS at 1.2 million by 2015, up from around 780,000 at present,” by promoting condom use, reducing stigma and discrimination, and educating urban and rural populations, as well as local officials, about the disease, Reuters notes (Blanchard, 2/29). In addition, the plan aims to implement interventions among people at higher risk of infection, such as drug users, and increase the rates of HIV testing and treatment, according to Xinhua (2/29).
“A typhoid outbreak that began in Harare last year is steadily spreading across Zimbabwe with more than 3,000 cases reported although only one death due to the disease has been reported so far, health officials have said,” ZimOnline reports (Marimudza, 2/29). “We have reported 203 new typhoid cases this week only … So we actually have an outbreak that is raging,” Ministry of Health Epidemiology and Disease Control Director Portia Manangazira told VOA News, according to the news service (Gonda/Chifera, 2/28). Speaking to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare on Tuesday, Manangazira “said the ministry did not have adequate supply of drugs for patients,” NewsDay notes (Chidavaenzi, 2/29).
“At present, the prevailing strategy for improving access to medicines for [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)] is drug donation programs, which, despite providing some of the highest economic returns of public health programs … have uncertain sustainability,” Francesca Holt of St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge and colleagues write in this PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases opinion piece. “Countries in demographic and economic transition are uniquely poised to be leaders in a shift towards a more sustainable, affordable means of providing access to medicines for NTDs,” they add, citing China, India, and Brazil as examples (2/28).
In an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday, Francis Adatu, head of the national leprosy and tuberculosis (TB) program in Uganda, warned that TB “remains a major public health problem” and that multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) has emerged in the country, the news service writes. “‘According to our prevalence survey we found MDR-TB in 1.3 percent among new cases and 12.3 percent among people who have been exposed to drugs or treated over and over again,’ Adatu said,” Xinhua writes, noting that Adatu said treatment for MDR-TB was much more expensive than for drug-susceptible TB.
Two new reports from southern Africa’s Health Systems Trust show that pregnant women, infants, and people newly diagnosed with HIV infection are receiving more services, but the costs of care are increasing, PlusNews reports. The annual District Health Barometer shows that about half of infants born to HIV-positive mothers are being tested for the virus at six weeks; almost all pregnant women are tested for HIV, helping to lower the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission to below four percent nationwide; and about 70 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV receive screening for tuberculosis (TB), according to the news service.
Pharmaceutical company Novartis “has spoken out following criticism about its challenge to India’s patent laws, insisting that access to life-saving drugs is not under peril by the move,” Pharma Times World News reports. The case, which the Indian Supreme Court is scheduled to hear next month, challenges “Indian patent law, notably Section 3(d), which states that a modification of a known chemical composition is non-patentable,” the news service writes.
In this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog, Brook Baker of the Northeastern University School of Law Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy, “describe[s] and comment[s] on pharmaceutical company Novartis’s court challenge to India’s strict standards of patenting medicine” and worldwide protests against the company that took place last week prior to its shareholder meeting (Mazzotta, 2/27).
“Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services, UNICEF warns in ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World,'” released on Tuesday, the agency reports in a press release (2/28). “Children in slums and poor urban communities lack access to clean water, sanitation and education, as services struggle to keep up with fast urban growth, says” the agency’s flagship report, according to AlertNet (Caspani, 2/28). The report “calls attention to the lack of data on conditions in slums, particularly as it relates to children, and it calls for a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding poverty and inequality in cities and increased political will to improve the lives of the most marginalized,” UNICEF writes in an accompanying article (2/28).
U.S. Funding To Address Basic Health In Ghana ‘Noble’ But Improving Access To Health Care Still Imperative
A joint agreement recently signed by the Ugandan Ministry of Health and the U.S. Government’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) to carry out collaborative initiatives targeted at “bringing quality health care to Ugandans” is “a significant effort that should, with proper implementation, improve health care services, particularly by reducing pregnancy-related deaths,” a Daily Monitor editorial states.