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USAID Committed To Improving Lives Of Children Affected By HIV/AIDS

“Despite many gains in the fight against AIDS, children still lag far behind adults in access to important medical services, including HIV prevention, care, and treatment,” Jen Pollakusky, communications analyst at USAID’s Bureau of Global Health Office of HIV/AIDS, writes in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” noting that Monday marked the 10th anniversary of World AIDS Orphan Day. “By partnering with national governments, communities, and other organizations, USAID is committed to improving the lives of children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS — a critical step in the path to achieving an AIDS-free generation,” she writes, adding “we need to step-up our early intervention efforts for children under five years old” and “work with families to help them become more economically stable so they can access essential services and better provide for their children” (5/7).

Option For Couples To Test Together, Access ART For Prevention Can Reduce HIV Risk

“If we don’t leverage the power of innovation to transform how health services are provided and utilized, efforts to stop new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths can reach a stalemate,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in this opinion piece in the Huffington Post’s “Healthy Living” blog. “Many of the advances in HIV prevention and treatment have come through innovation and applying knowledge in new ways,” he continues, highlighting the protective benefits of male circumcision and the introduction of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV.

New York Times Examines Cuba’s Sanitarium Network For People Living With HIV

The New York Times examines the Cuban network of sanitariums created to house and treat people living with HIV, “to keep the infected from having sex with anyone uninfected and to help them die comfortably.” Inside the facilities, patients received food, their former salaries, and care, but they could only leave with escorts, the newspaper notes. According to the New York Times, the sanitariums “were harshly criticized — Dr. Jonathan Mann, the first AIDS director at the World Health Organization, called them ‘pretty prisons’ — but they had a huge damping effect on the early epidemic. Fewer than 150 new cases were detected in the country each year through 1990.”

Sierra Leone Has Made Progress In Improving Maternal, Child Health Care, But ‘Much More To Do’

“Just two years ago, our country had one of the worst maternal and infant death rates in the world,” Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma writes in a Huffington Post U.K. “Impact” blog post, adding, “We knew something had to be done.” So in September 2009, the government announced “that all health user fees would be removed for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five” and “introduced the Free Health Care Initiative [FHCI] in April 2010, which would give around 460,000 women and a million children a much better chance of having a longer and happier life,” Koroma writes. In one year, the FHCI facilitated a “214 percent increase in the number of children attending outpatient units” and a 61 percent reduction in “the number of women dying from pregnancy complications at facilities,” and “increased the number of health workers and ensured they were given big salary rises to reflect the importance of their positions,” he notes.

U.N. Adopts Resolution On Young People’s Sexual And Reproductive Rights

This RH Reality Check post by the International Planned Parenthood Federation Western Hemisphere Region (IPPFWHR) examines a “resolution in support of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and human rights” adopted recently by member states at the 45th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD). According to the post, “[k]ey points of the final resolution include: The right of young people to decide on all matters related to their sexuality; Access to sexual and reproductive health services … that respect confidentiality and do not discriminate; The right of youth to comprehensive sexuality education; Protection and promotion of young people’s right to control their sexuality free from violence, discrimination and coercion” (5/3).

U.N. Says Asia Pacific Region Making Strides Against HIV/AIDS, Must Address Social And Legal Barriers To Treatment, Prevention

The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for the Asia Pacific (ESCAP) on Monday in Bangkok “opened a three-day meeting lauding impressive gains in recent years in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” but the body cautioned “there are still legal and social barriers that significantly set back eradication efforts,” VOA News reports. U.N. ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer “note[d] the gains are uneven and there are still gaps in the goal of universal access to HIV treatment,” the news service writes.

Guardian Blog Interviews Researcher Regarding Artemisinin Synthesis Discovery

In this post in the Guardian’s “The Observer,” Mark Honigsbaum, a research associate at the University of Zurich’s Institute for Medical History, interviews Peter Seeberger, the director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, about a recent announcement that Seeberger and colleague François Lévesque “have discovered a simple and cost-effective way of synthesizing artemisinin from the waste products of the” sweet wormwood plant from which it is extracted. Honigsbaum notes that “extracting artemisinin is expensive and because it takes time to cultivate the plant there are often bottlenecks in supply,” and writes, “Their discovery has the potential to make the drug more affordable for the 225 million people affected by malaria every year” (2/4).

Action Needed To Reach Ambitious Targets Set Forth In President’s World AIDS Day Speech

President Barack Obama’s December 1 World AIDS Day speech “could be pivotal, but only if it is followed by changes in how we tackle global AIDS,” Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, writes in this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece. “Obama signaled a renewed U.S. commitment to funding for global AIDS programs at a time when resources at home are constrained and other countries are backing away from the fight,” he writes, adding, “Now it’s time to plot a course for implementing the president’s vision.”

Economic Transformation In Latin America An Opportunity To Improve NTD Strategies, DNDi Regional Director Says

“The rise of emerging economies in Latin America is an opportunity to improve strategies for fighting neglected illnesses and increase the region’s contribution to the global struggle against them, says” Eric Stobbaerts, the Latin America director of the independent Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Inter Press Service reports. “Our region is going through a major transformation in economic and social terms,” Stobbaerts told IPS after a meeting on “Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases” (NTDs) held in London on January 30, “mentioning the progress that has been made in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico,” IPS writes.

Health Status Of Indigenous Populations Across Asia Unknown, Putting Them At Risk, Experts Say

“The health of millions of indigenous people across Asia is at risk, experts say, as lack of recognition of their legal status hinders data collection, making their medical problems invisible in most national health surveys,” IRIN reports. “Indigenous peoples — defined by the U.N. as people with ancestral ties to a geographical region who retain ‘distinct characteristics’ from other parts of the population — rank disproportionately high in most indicators of poor health, according to the U.N. Secretariat Department of Economic and Social Affairs,” the news service adds.