Al Jazeera examines maternal mortality worldwide, saying, “If the situation continues at its current rate, the world will not meet” the U.N. Millennium Development Goal “to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.” Though the estimated number of women who die of maternal mortality has dropped from 546,000 in 1990 to 340,000 today, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy in developing countries “is still high at one in 31,” compared with one in 4,300 in developed countries, the news agency reports. “Attaining zero maternal death would require greater community involvement and commitment” and increased access to contraceptives and skilled birth attendants, according to experts, Al Jazeera notes (Arjunpuri, 3/19).
Access to Health Services
AIDS Survey Preliminary Data Show Stagnation In Uganda’s HIV Prevalence, Need For Improved Prevention Strategies, Experts Say
A preliminary report on the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey, conducted by the Ministry of Health, shows the country’s “HIV prevalence rate [has] stagnated over the last 10 years, [and] the number of people infected with HIV has risen from 1.8 million people to 2.3 million today,” the Observer writes. “Health experts at the launch of the preliminary report said this is not only worrying for a poor country like Uganda, but also shows that the billions of dollars sunk into prevention are not reaping any results, as people continue to get infected,” the newspaper writes.
PlusNews examines the challenges and concerns surrounding Zimbabwe’s plan to conduct a door-to-door HIV testing campaign, which has not yet begun but “is already being met with skepticism by activists who feel this is not a priority for the country, especially with global HIV/AIDS funding on the decline.” National AIDS officials say the country’s “AIDS levy — a three percent tax on income — has become a promising source of funding”; in 2010, $20.5 million was collected, with most of that going to purchase antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), PlusNews notes. Of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, 347,000 access ARVs through a national program, and another 600,000 people “urgently” need them, according to the news service.
U.S. Ambassador For Global Women’s Issues Speaks About GHI’s Support For Family Planning In CNN Interview
“[F]amily planning is one of the best public health interventions that can be made,” U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer said in an interview with Amar Bakshi, editor of CNN World’s “Global Public Square” (GPS) blog, adding, “It makes such a difference in a woman’s life for her to be able to have the wherewithal — the family planning contraceptives available so that she can decide the size and the spacing of her children.”
“Ten months after the West African country [of Cote d’Ivoire] started to emerge from a presidential election crisis during which almost all hospitals and clinics had to shut down for a good six months because they had been vandalized, looted and occupied, the new government under President Alassane Ouattara is trying to make public health care a priority,” including implementing “[a] new national health regulation, which came into effect on Mar. 1, that offers free health services to pregnant women, children under five years and people suffering from malaria,” Inter Press Service reports. “But in a country recovering from 12 years of political instability since a military coup in December 1999 that was followed by 10 years of [former President Laurent] Gbagbo’s autocratic rule, rebuilding a crumbling public health care system takes time,” IPS writes, adding, “Hospitals have been suffering from lack of skilled staff, basic equipment and technology for years.”
In this RH Reality Check blog post, Mandy Van Deven, online administrator for International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), discusses how PROFAMILIA-Dominican Republic, an IPPF/WHR member association, “has integrated HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and testing into its extensive clinical sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.” She writes, “There are two key elements to PROFAMILIA’s integrated approach: a focus on a broad range of vulnerable groups — from youth to women and immigrant populations — and a staunch commitment to fighting the stigma, discrimination and gender-based violence often associated with an HIV-positive status” (3/13).
“On Monday, the Indian Patent Office effectively ended [German drug maker] Bayer’s monopoly for its [cancer drug] Nexavar and issued its first-ever compulsory license allowing local generic maker Natco Pharma to make and sell the drug cheaply in India,” Reuters reports. “India’s move to strip … Bayer of its exclusive rights to [Nexavar] has set a precedent that could extend to other treatments, including modern HIV/AIDS drugs, in a major blow to global pharmaceutical firms, experts say,” the news service writes, noting, “It is only the second time a nation has issued a compulsory license for a cancer drug after Thailand did so on four drugs between 2006 and 2008.” Thailand also has issued compulsory licenses for HIV/AIDS and heart disease medications, according to Reuters (Kulkarni/Foy, 3/13).
“With its health-care system increasingly eclipsed by rivals, India has a plan to nearly double public spending on health over the next five years,” a goal that would “lift annual spending on health to 2.5 percent of the country’s economic output, from 1.4 percent,” the Washington Post reports. The scheme is “aimed at giving free medicine to all Indians at government facilities, setting up free ambulances in rural areas, doubling the number of trained health workers, and lifting millions of young children and women out of chronic malnutrition and preventable deaths,” the newspaper writes.
“[T]he United States, with its high salaries and technological innovation, is … the world’s most powerful magnet for doctors, attracting more every year than Britain, Canada and Australia — the next most popular destinations for migrating doctors — combined,” the New York Times Magazine reports in a story on how the promise of a better salary and working conditions is drawing newly trained doctors away from their countries to the U.S.
“Scientists, stymied for decades by the complexity of the human immunodeficiency virus, are making progress on several fronts in the search for a cure for HIV infections,” but “[a] major stumbling block is the fact that HIV lies low in pools or reservoirs of latent infection that even powerful drugs cannot reach, scientists told the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, one of the world’s largest scientific meetings on HIV/AIDS,” in Seattle last week, Reuters reports. “Promising tactics range from flushing hidden HIV from cells to changing out a person’s own immune system cells, making them resistant to HIV and then putting them back into the patient’s body,” the news service writes.