In this post in the RH Reality Check blog, Laura Hoemeke, director of communications and knowledge management at IntraHealth International, writes that it “take[s] a health worker, or more accurately millions of health workers, to meet the need that hundreds of millions of couples worldwide have for family planning,” adding, “A…
Access to Health Services
Reuters examines how the fight against malaria in Africa is helping to fuel the continent’s economic growth. “The number of malaria deaths has fallen dramatically in the last decade due to increased aid spending on basic items such as insecticide-treated bed nets and drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) says,” the news agency writes, noting that an experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline is showing prospect. The news agency discusses the efforts of AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third largest gold producer, to prevent and treat malaria among its workers, which “‘made economic sense because of the absenteeism and the cost of medication,’ said Steve Knowles, the head of AngloGold’s anti-malaria operations.”
“In order to break the vicious cycle that leaves tropical diseases neglected, existing programs that diagnose and treat patients need to be expanded and medical research to develop simpler, more effective tools needs to be supported, according to a new report, Fighting Neglect [.pdf], released [Monday] by Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF),” the organization reports on its webpage. “Charting the organization’s 25 years of experience in diagnosing and treating Chagas disease, sleeping sickness, and kala azar in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Caucasus, the report examines past, present, and future management of the diseases and notes that access to quality life-saving treatment requires much greater political will among major international donors and national governments of endemic countries,” MSF writes (6/11).
“China has overhauled parts of its intellectual property laws to allow its drug makers to make cheap copies of medicines still under patent protection in an initiative likely to unnerve foreign pharmaceutical companies,” Reuters reports (Lyn, 6/8). “The amended patent law allows Beijing to issue compulsory licenses to eligible companies to produce generic versions of patented drugs during state emergencies, unusual circumstances, or in the interests of the public,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “For ‘reasons of public health,’ eligible drug makers can also ask to export these medicines to other countries, including members of the World Trade Organization (WTO)” (6/9).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog summarizes an event held Thursday, titled “AIDS-free Generation? Not Without Women,” that was sponsored by the National Council of Women’s Organizations. The session aimed “to draw attention to pivotal issues surrounding the impact of AIDS on women worldwide” ahead of the International AIDS Conference, the blog states. Speakers at the event included Katherine Fritz, global health director at the International Center for Research on Women, and Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health And Gender Equity (CHANGE), according to the blog, which notes “CHANGE recently released two reports on the implementation of the Global Health Initiative and reproduction health care in Guatemala and Ethiopia, concluding that GHI principles could be used to enhance services and conditions in both countries” (Barton, 6/22).
Vatican Official Calls On International Community To Provide 'Free, Efficient' HIV Treatment In Africa
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state and number two official, “called Friday on the international community to provide ‘free and efficient treatment’ for AIDS in Africa, starting with pregnant women, mothers and their babies,” Agence France-Presse reports (6/22). During a conference sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, which operates the DREAM program (Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition) in 10 African countries, “Bertone said the results of DREAM and research by the World Health Organization ‘confirm that universal access to care is achievable, scientifically proven and economically feasible,’” the Catholic News Service writes.
Burma, also known as Myanmar, “seems to be making the difficult and fragile transition from military dictatorship to fledgling democracy,” but the country has “some of the worst health indicators in the world,” a Lancet editorial states. “[T]he military retains a strong presence in regions of ethnic tension, and health and human rights abuses are certain to continue without adequate monitoring,” it continues.
UNAIDS Executive Director Calls On African Leaders To Reduce 'Triple Dependency' On External Sources Of HIV Drugs, Commodities, Technologies
“Delivering a speech at [Wednesday's] opening session of the 16th Conference of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe congratulated leaders across the region for their personal commitment to the HIV response, specifically with regard to upholding human rights and protecting human capital,” UNAIDS reports in an article on its website. “Addressing eight Heads of State and other high-level participants in Lome, Togo, he called on African leaders to reduce their ‘triple dependency’ on external sources for HIV drugs, commodities, and technologies,” the agency writes, adding, “To ensure the health and security of their populations, African leaders should focus greater attention and resources on the local production of medicines, said the UNAIDS executive director” (6/6).
The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).
Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).