This week the WHO brought together lawmakers from across Southeast Asia in Bangkok “to discuss how to bolster their health systems back home,” IRIN reports. Meeting participants were “called on to advocate the boosting of health spending, workforces and access to health care in their home countries in addition to drafting ‘healthy public policies,’ such as conducting health assessments before large infrastructural projects are undertaken,” the news service writes.
Access to Health Services
A new report, titled “Injection Drug Use in Ukraine” and published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), examines the challenges of providing HIV prevention and care services in the country, particularly to people who inject drugs (PWID), who accounted for “nearly 50 percent of new HIV infections registered in 2010,” according to the CSIS website. Authors Phillip Nieburg, senior associate and co-chair of the Prevention Committee of the CSIS HIV/AIDS Task Force, and Lisa Carty, senior adviser in the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, also examine how the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and PEPFAR could help Ukraine “in advancing HIV prevention and other services for PWID,” the website notes (3/16).
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).
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.