UNAIDS on Thursday “called on all countries to implement new [WHO] guidelines that encourage couples to go together for HIV testing to ascertain their status” and recommend offering antiretroviral therapy (ART) to people living with HIV who have a partner without HIV, “even when they do not require it for their own health,” the U.N. News Centre reports. UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, “I am excited that with the rollout of these new guidelines, millions of men and women have one additional option to stop new HIV infections. … This development begins a new era of HIV prevention dialogue and hope among couples” (4/19). “Earlier treatment, of course, will need more money for more drugs for more people,” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley writes in her Global Health Blog, adding, “Campaigners will be looking anxiously to the reviving fortunes of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as the prospects for more money for PEPFAR” (4/19).
Access to Health Services
To Achieve AIDS-Free Generation, Needs Of Youth Living With HIV Must Be Addressed In Transition Services
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Heather Bergmann of John Snow Inc., who is the technical officer for USAID’s AIDSTAR-One project, reports on the need to include youth in transition services for adolescents living with HIV. She writes, “Without proper support, many young people can become overwhelmed, a response that can challenge adherence to AIDS medicines and lead to negative health consequences. This is why it’s imperative to create health services that are appropriate and accessible for youth living with HIV.” She adds, “Achieving the goal set out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year of reducing new HIV infections in children and achieving an AIDS-free generation requires addressing the needs of youth with services that are delivered in ways and in places that are accessible, welcoming, and supportive” (4/19).
World Bank To Strengthen Social Safety Net Programs To Support Those In Developing World Vulnerable To Economic Volatility
“The World Bank plans to strengthen its social safety net to help the 60 percent of people in the developing world who lack adequate protection from the impact of global financial volatility and rising food and fuel prices,” Bloomberg reports. “Expanding cash transfers, food assistance, public works programs and fee waivers to help nations respond to crises and fight persistent poverty will be the center of the agenda for the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Development Committee meeting on April 21, the bank said [Wednesday] in Washington,” according to the news agency (Martin, 4/18). “Safety nets can transform people’s lives and provide a foundation for inclusive growth without busting budgets. … Effective safety net coverage overcomes poverty, and promotes economic opportunity and gender equality by helping people find jobs and cope with economic shocks, and improving the health, education, and well-being of their children,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said, the Guardian notes (Elliott, 4/18).
In a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin writes, “[I]t warms my heart to see that safe motherhood and women’s reproductive health are finally being recognized as important development issues,” but “millions of women in developing countries still lack even the most basic care during pregnancy,” leading to maternal death and injury and hundreds of millions of women lack access to family planning services, including modern contraceptives. “It is inexcusable that in the 21st century motherhood remains so dangerous for so many. It is not only morally wrong but also hampers economic development and the survival and well-being of families, communities and nations,” he writes.
“In the last of its series called ‘7 Billion: Conversations That Matter,’ Aspen Institute’s Global Health and Development [on Wednesday] hosted a panel of experts based in Africa and the United States on the interconnectedness of gender issues, family planning, population, and access to safe water,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. According to the blog, “The point of the series was to ask questions about why it mattered that the world was passing the seven billion mark, and the questions [addressed] in Washington were appropriately big: Will water wars replace oil wars? What are the solutions to expand water and sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who don’t have it? And just how many people can the world support in an equitable fashion?” The blog recaps the discussion, providing quotes from several of the panelists, and writes, “The panelists kept coming back to the connections among access to water, family planning, and finding ways to use resources more efficiently” (Donnelly, 4/18).
Though HIV prevalence in Nepal has dropped from 0.45 percent in 2005 to 0.3 percent in 2012, “[p]oor understanding of antiretroviral therapy (ART) amongst health officials, clinicians and patients in Nepal could undermine [those] gains … and threaten future progress in lowering the number of new infections,” PlusNews reports. The news service interviews several Nepalese HIV/AIDS specialists about the importance of patients’ adherence to ART, how difficult travel to clinics can inhibit patients from returning for medication refills or counseling, and how “[p]olicies that neglect the comprehensive nutritional, financial, educational, and pharmaceutical needs of people living with HIV/AIDS amount to treatment illiteracy at the policy level.” PlusNews writes, “Observers fear the positive results from national HIV efforts could be diluted if tensions over the administration of HIV programs continue, and adherence issues hamper implementation” (4/17).
“During the 1990s it had taken a while for the rest of the world to wake up to the tragedy of AIDS in Africa, but belatedly the alarm call had come,” John Wright, a consultant in clinical epidemiology at Bradford Royal Infirmary in England, writes in a BMJ opinion piece. “Global funding and international action achieved something quite miraculous, bringing the most expensive and innovative drugs in the world to the poorest people on the planet; a triumph of science and health policy that made the discovery of penicillin look quaint,” he says. “The new health colonialists have come from across the globe with admirable intentions and boundless energy in a new scramble for Africa. Dozens of well meaning health providers are falling over each other to help — but crucially also to justify their efforts to their sponsors back home,” he writes.
“Three decades after the full onset of the global HIV tragedy, science appears to finally be developing preventative measures, including microbicides that would thwart infections in the first place, according to individuals at” the biennial International Microbicides Conference in Sydney, the Asia Sentinel writes. “Now, however, the challenge is to put the solution into the hands of those most susceptible to the disease,” the news service adds (Ramakant, 4/17). Researchers, advocates and funders met this week at the conference “to discuss the state of HIV prevention research,” a conference press release states.
Politico Pro examines the reaction to a speech delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a TEDxChange conference in Berlin on April 5. “Gates’s speech was primarily focused on explaining why family planning is important in the developing world,” according to the news service. Gates said lack of access to modern contraceptives is “a life and death crisis” because with family planning, the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children could be saved annually, the news service notes. “But multiple global health experts heard her comments as an intentional effort to push back on the politicization of birth control in the United States following the Obama administration’s new contraception coverage policy, which they fear could spill over into global health policy,” the news service writes. However, “Gates Foundation spokesman Chris Williams said Gates was simply reiterating her long-standing support for family planning and that viewing these remarks in light of domestic politics would be ‘using the wrong lens,'” the article notes.
Yaws, a skin and bone disease caused by a treponematoses bacterium that can cause long-term deformities, “has recently been put on WHO’s list of 17 so-called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)” and, along with Guinea worm, is “slated for eradication,” the Lancet reports. A “massive push to free the world from yaws failed in the 1950s and 1960s,” and the WHO in 1995 estimated “there were 2.5 million cases of endemic treponematoses (mostly yaws),” according to the Lancet. A study published in the Lancet in January showed a single dose of the antibiotic azithromycin was effective at curing the disease among children, a finding that “jump-started the NTD community into action,” the article states.