This post in the UHC Forward blog describes the second meeting of the Universal Health Coverage Roundtable Series, “Toward Sustainable Universal Health Coverage,” which was hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City on February 9. The panelists “examined the possibilities, challenges, and paths toward achieving Universal Health Coverage in different resource settings by exploring the methods for expanding and supporting coverage worldwide” and discussed issues such as how to define UHC, the importance of quality in health care, improving cost-effectiveness, and how to increase utilization of existing services, according to the blog (Wellington, 2/20).
Access to Health Services
Approximately 85,000 HIV-positive people in Burma, also known as Myanmar, are in need of antiretroviral treatment (ART) and cannot access it “due to a lack of funding, despite renewed international engagement with the government amid a wave of political reform, according to a report released Wednesday” by the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Associated Press/CBS News reports (2/22). “At the launch of a new report called ‘Lives in the Balance,’ MSF said that only a quarter of the estimated 120,000 people living with HIV and AIDS were receiving treatment, and that it was turning people away from its clinics,” BBC News writes. While plans were made last year among MSF and its partners to scale up treatment for HIV and tuberculosis (TB), “those proposals were shelved after the Global Fund” to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria cancelled its Round 11 grants, according to the news agency. “The money was expected to provide HIV drugs for 46,500 people in Myanmar, along with treatment for another 10,000 people sicken[ed] by drug-resistant tuberculosis in the country, [the report] said,” BBC writes (Fisher, 2/22).
CBS News examines the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in South Korea, which “has the highest incidence rate of tuberculosis among the world’s wealthiest countries, nations [that] belong to the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).” The news service continues, “In 2010, South Korea’s incidence rate of tuberculosis was 97 out of 100,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while the mortality rate of TB was 5.4 out of 100,000. (In the U.S., the incidence rate was 4.1 and the mortality rate was 0.18 during the same time period.)”
“While international attention focuses on Burma, [also known as Myanmar,] a health crisis in the country looms large,” Joe Billiveau, operations manager of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) operational center in Amsterdam, writes in this opinion piece in Bangkok’s Nation. He continues, “An estimated 85,000 people infected with HIV in Burma are not receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART). This is an improvement on previous years, with new momentum in the country to tackle the crisis,” but the cancellation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Round 11 grants “threatens to undo improvements” and prevent the planned scale-up of ART for an additional 46,500 patients and treatment for another 10,000 tuberculosis (TB) patients.
“On Tuesday the U.S. Positive Women’s Network (PWN) hosted a webinar to discuss HIV-positive women’s sexual rights and to commemorate Valentine’s Day as a day to uphold the rights of HIV-positive women to have safe and satisfying sexual lives,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. According to the blog, “Presenters discussed various ways in which HIV-positive women can gain sexual and reproductive rights, from using a human rights-based approach, to implementing new biomedical prevention technologies through U.S. health care reform, to how to advocate for women-centered care” (Aziz, 2/16).
“A stakeholder consultation convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva has reviewed recent epidemiological studies related to HIV transmission and acquisition by women using hormonal contraceptives,” a UNAIDS press statement reports (2/16). In a technical statement (.pdf), “[t]he Geneva-based United Nations health agency confirmed its existing recommendations [Thursday] after a study published last year found using contraceptive injections doubles the chance women will catch HIV and transmit it to a male partner,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Hallam, 2/16). The WHO “concluded that hormonal contraception — whether the pill or injection — was safe for women at risk of HIV to use if they wanted to prevent pregnancy,” the Guardian notes (Boseley, 2/16).
“A feeble international response to Pakistan’s second major flooding crisis in two years has left millions of people at serious risk of malnutrition and disease, aid groups warned Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum (PHF), a network of the 41 largest international charities in the country, called on the international community and Pakistan to take urgent steps with the next monsoon season months away,” the news service adds. “At least 2.5 million people are still without food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care, putting them at serious risk of malnutrition, disease and deepening poverty, said the coalition of international charities,” AFP writes, adding, “Around 43 percent of affected people are severely short of food and malnutrition levels were already well above the emergency threshold in the southern provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan before the floods struck” (Gilani, 2/15).
“Burkina Faso’s Network for Access to Essential Medicines (RAME) has called on the BurkinabÃ¨ government to increase the budget allocation to the health sector to avoid interruptions to AIDS treatment,” Inter Press Service reports. “Despite an emergency plan announced in January, which will see the government spend around one billion CFA francs — two million dollars — to procure AIDS drugs in this West African country, patients and civil society groups are demanding permanent measures to ensure the availability of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and reagents,” the news service notes.
“Health officials in southern China are proposing new legislation to require real-name registration for HIV testing, a move aimed at lowering infection rates that has sparked controversy over personal privacy,” the Wall Street Journal’s “China Real Time Report” blog reports. It notes that China’s Xinhua News Agency recently reported that the legislation, proposed in China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, also would mandate people testing positive for HIV must inform their spouses and partners.
“Current negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union and India are causing serious concern in many quarters over future access to cheap generic medicines used to treat some of the world’s great public health threats: HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and also cancer,” Philippe Douste-Blazy, U.N. special adviser on innovative financing for development and chair of UNITAID, and Denis Broun, executive director of UNITAID, write in this post in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” “Those fears are well founded: if the E.U. and India agree on stringent patent and border measures, India’s role as the ‘pharmacy of the south’ could well come to an end,” they add.