Brazil is expanding its national HIV/AIDS treatment program to include about 35,000 additional people, the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports. “Ronaldo Hallal of the [health] ministry’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Department said people with 500 or fewer CD4 cells per cubic millimeter will receive antiretroviral HIV treatment,” increasing the cutoff from 350 or less CD4 cells per cubic millimeter prior to the expansion, the news service writes. The Ministry of Health noted on its website that the expansion will require spending an additional 120 million reals, or $60,000, annually, according to the news service, which adds, “Hallal said Brazil already spends 1.2 billion reals ($600 million) each year in its free anti-AIDS program that is currently treating 223,000 people.” The AP notes Health Minister Alexandre Padilla said in a statement, “Brazil will be the only large country in the world to offer this kind of treatment that will reduce the risk of opportunistic infections like tuberculosis” (8/29).
Access to Health Services
This Lancet editorial reflects on a medical crisis in Syria, highlighting a new report (.pdf) by Amnesty International that “documents the human rights abuses already occurring in the city.” The editorial states, “A disturbing feature of modern conflicts and, indeed, the Arab uprisings, has been the flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions, including targeting of civilians, persecution of health workers, and attacks on hospitals, alongside the failure of the U.N. system to prevent these violations,” and it highlights several examples cited in the report.
“The United States announced Thursday it would hike its humanitarian aid to Syria, adding another $12 million to provide food, water, medicine and other necessities for battered and displaced people” affected by violence in the Syrian conflict, the Los Angeles Times blog “World Now” reports. “The increase approved by the Obama administration brings American humanitarian assistance in Syria to more than $76 million, including $27.5 million to the World Food Programme [WFP], roughly $18 million for the United Nations refugee agency and the rest split among other U.N. funds and non-profit groups,” the blog writes (Alpert, 8/2).
Noting that this week’s issue of the Lancet explores the theme of “[a]ccess to beneficial health technology, including essential medicines and medical devices, for those most in need,” a Lancet editorial states, “Maximizing use of current health technologies (drugs, devices, biological products, medical and surgical procedures, support systems, and organizational systems) is essential to improving global health.” Collaboration between the journal and Imperial College London has resulted in a new Commission on technologies for global health, which examines different ways to broaden the use of new technologies, from bringing down cost to making them more culturally acceptable, the editorial notes.
In this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Judit Rius Sanjuan, a lawyer from Barcelona, Spain, and the U.S. manager of the Access Campaign at Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade agreement that currently involves 11 countries but could expand to include other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, “threatens to set a dangerous precedent with damaging implications for developing countries where MSF works, and beyond.” “Negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the agreement outline U.S. aggressive intellectual property (IP) demands that that could severely restrict access to affordable, life-saving medicines for millions of people,” she writes, concluding, “At this pivotal moment in the fight against AIDS, when the scientific, medical and policy tools needed to reverse the epidemic are finally at hand, … the U.S. government’s demands in the TPP will threaten so much of what has been achieved so far, and will make the vision of an AIDS-free generation impossible, or at least much more expensive” (8/7).
Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).
BBC News reports on a $15 million college in northern Nigeria’s Jigawa state that is working to train nurses and midwives. The first class of the three-year program is expected to graduate in September, and “[t]he hope is these new nurses and midwives will stay in Jigawa’s villages once their training is complete, rather than drifting to towns and cities where the work is usually better paid,” BBC notes, adding, “The college represents a start in addressing what has been a gaping lack of resources.” Four years ago, there were 14 midwives trying to serve “the state’s population of 4.5 million people” and “cover more than 600 small health centers,” BBC continues. However, a British-funded project called Paths 2, which aims “to reduce the state’s high level of preventable deaths among pregnant women,” has helped facilitate the creation of training programs for local health care workers, the news service notes (Dreaper, 8/2).
On the first stop of a 10-day tour of Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped at the Phillipe Maguilen Senghor Health Center in Dakar, Senegal, where Awa Marie Coll-Seck, the country’s minister of health, “explained to Secretary Clinton how these operational centers dramatically improve maternal and child health,” according to a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” Coll-Seck “also noted that USAID-supported distribution of insecticide impregnated mosquito nets across the country had drastically reduced the incidence of malaria,” according to the blog, which adds that Clinton “was pleased to hear that the United States is playing a key role in helping meet one of its biggest challenges: decentralizing services so they are available at the village level throughout the country.” In an address several hours later, “Clinton invoked the Senghor center … saying she was highly impressed by the integrated nature of the facility” and that “[i]t was a successful model she hoped could be duplicated throughout Senegal and the entire West African region” (Taylor, 8/1).
The XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place last week in Washington, D.C., “ignited momentum to shift from ‘fighting AIDS’ to ‘ending AIDS,’” Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health adviser at Oxfam International, and Urvarshi Rajcoomer, policy and advocacy adviser at Oxfam in South Africa, write in a Mail & Guardian opinion piece. “Oxfam believes investing in health systems such as infrastructure and health worker, drug supply chain and health information systems, is a critical prerequisite to ending AIDS,” they write. However, “to make this a reality,” pharmaceutical companies, donor governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank “must now do their part,” they continue.
In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”