“Voluntary family planning services will reach an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries by 2020 thanks to a new set of commitments announced [at the London Summit on Family Planning on Wednesday] by more than 150 leaders from donor and developing countries, international agencies, civil society, foundations and the private sector,” a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation press release reports (7/11). Donors “pledged $2.6 billion over the next eight years at [the summit], in what was described as a breakthrough for the world’s poorest women and girls,” the Guardian writes, adding, “More than 20 developing countries made commitments to boost spending on family planning and to strengthen women’s rights to ease their access to contraception” (Tran, 7/11). Speaking at the summit, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, announced the foundation “will spend more than $1 billion over the next eight years to increase access to contraceptives in the developing world and research new methods of birth control” and “outlined several of the initiatives [the foundation] will focus on in the coming years, including efforts to bring down the cost of birth control so that it will be within reach of the world’s poorest women,” the Seattle Times notes (Doughton, 7/11).
Access to Health Services
Early treatment with antiretroviral medication can significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission to an uninfected sexual partner, “[b]ut many logistical hurdles stand in the way of making this strategy feasible, affordable and effective, according to experts writing in Tuesday’s edition of the journal PLoS Medicine,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Though Science magazine hailed the finding as “breakthrough of the year” in 2011, “[e]xperts are now divided about whether the treatment-as-prevention approach can essentially halt the AIDS epidemic,” the newspaper writes (Loury, 7/11). The PLoS Medicine collection, which includes nine reviews and one research article, “provide insights into the factors which will support evidence-based decision-making in HIV prevention, with a focus on the use of antiretroviral treatment to prevent HIV transmission,” according to the collection’s homepage (7/10).
Describing PEPFAR as “a targeted approach on a large-scale and with accountability for results,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby on Tuesday said the program has done more than fight HIV/AIDS, having had a “broader transformational impact … on the health sector” in many countries, VOA News reports (De Capua, 7/10). Goosby delivered the keynote address at a Health Affairs briefing titled, “Assessing The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief: Past Achievements And Future Prospects For PEPFAR,” according to a State Department video of his remarks (7/10). The July 2012 issue of Health Affairs “examines the origins of [PEPFAR]; the lessons learned from implementation; the successes achieved in terms of human health and well-being; and the opportunities that now exist to lay the groundwork for an ‘AIDS-free generation,'” the Health Affairs Blog states (Fleming, 7/10).
As part of its “Young people’s sexual health matters” series, the Guardian reports on a recent roundtable discussion hosted by the newspaper, in association with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), during which experts discussed key family planning issues ahead of the July 11 London Summit. “There was widespread agreement around the table that while increasing the physical supply of contraceptives to women in the developing world was crucial, it had to go hand-in-hand with better education about sex and relationships and a focus on rights,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Family planning — an unfortunate, old-fashioned term, some said — has long suffered from being associated by critics with population control” (Williams, 7/10).
Gates Foundation, U.K. Government Expected To Announce Additional Funding For Family Planning At London Summit
The U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with UNFPA and other partners on Wednesday, July 11, are hosting the London Summit on Family Planning, which aims “to raise $4 billion to expand access to contraception for 120 million women in the developing world by 2020,” according to Reuters. At the summit, the Gates Foundation “is set to unveil funding a sum in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a campaign to improve access to contraception in the developing world,” the news service notes (Wickham, 7/10). In addition, the U.K. government will “pledge to donate more than one billion pounds [$1.6 billion] to help family planning services in the developing world,” the Independent writes (Pickover, 7/11). The WHO “committed to fast-track its assessment of new and existing quality contraceptives so more women in low- and middle-income countries can obtain and use a broader range of safe and effective contraceptive products,” the agency reports in a media note (7/11).
The WHO “says comprehensive HIV treatment strategies are needed in developing countries to overcome stigma and discrimination,” because “often those in need of HIV treatment and prevention are unable to receive [the services] because of their social status,” VOA News reports. Certain populations, such as sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and people who inject drugs, sometimes face “barriers … to access services,” Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO HIV/AIDS Department, said, adding, “And we obviously see that as a consequence in many places these groups have higher infection rates. They have higher mortality, etcetera,â€ according to the news service.
Punitive Laws, Human Rights Violations Inhibiting Global AIDS Response, Global Commission On HIV And Law Report Says
“Punitive laws and human rights abuses are costing lives, wasting money, and stifling the global AIDS response,” according to a report (.pdf) released Monday by the independent Global Commission on HIV and the Law, which estimated the number of new HIV infections worldwide could be halved from 2.1 million to 1.2 million annually with changes in law and public policy, BMJ reports (Roehr, 7/9). The report, “based on 18 months of extensive research and analysis, as well as first-hand accounts from more than 1,000 people in 140 countries,” “finds evidence that governments in every region of the world have wasted the potential of legal systems in the fight against HIV,” according to the U.N. News Centre. The commission comprises “former heads of state and leading legal, human rights and HIV experts, and [is] supported by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) on behalf of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),” the news service notes (7/9).
The widespread incidence of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) “calls for a new approach to TB in the developing world,” a Bloomberg editorial states. A “breakthrough test,” called Xpert MTB/RIF, “makes mass screening [for drug-resistant TB] feasible,” according to the editorial, which notes the test, developed by “California-based Cephied Inc. in collaboration with the non-profit Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” detects resistance to the TB drug rifampicin, provides results in two hours, and can be used without advanced laboratory facilities.
Leading up to the London Summit on Family Planning taking place July 11, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog published several posts addressing family planning issues. The following summarizes some of these posts.
On World Population Day, observed on Wednesday, the U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will host the London Summit on Family Planning. The following are summaries of opinion pieces published ahead of the conference.