The Miami Herald reports on Brazil’s national HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention program, writing, “By the mid-1990s, more effective and powerful antiretroviral therapies replaced the older treatments, and in 1996 Brazil declared that it would offer free antiretroviral treatment to all citizens with AIDS.” However, “the controversial program — the government broke international patent laws to mass-produce the drugs at a lower cost and recruited sex workers to help distribute condoms — may not survive for long, experts say,” the newspaper continues.
Access to Health Services
HIV drugs have not only “transformed a fatal disease into a chronic one,” but “[t]hey have also made HIV a big business,” this Economist editorial states. The editorial examines the market for HIV drugs, writing, “The market is as unusual as it is large, both buoyed by government support and worryingly dependent on it. The past decade has brought fancier medicine in rich countries and copious aid for poor ones. But the war is far from won.” The editorial writes, “In total, public and private investment has yielded more than two dozen HIV drugs,” adding, “Sales of antiretroviral drugs in America and the five biggest European markets reached $13.3 billion in 2011, according to Datamonitor, a research outfit.”
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 Nairobi-based African Institute for Development Policy on Tuesday presented a report called “Africa on the Move!” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, VOA News reports, noting the report “says that in some African countries, political will, maternal and child health concerns as well as more and more funding are helping to develop effective family planning.” According to VOA, “Steve McDonald, the host of the event and Africa director at the Wilson Center, said partnerships between governments and religious organizations, which sometimes provide the bulk of health services in remote areas, are also crucial.”
In this post in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, Helen Hamilton, policy adviser for neglected tropical diseases at Sightsavers, reflects on the Rio+20 conference, “which took place last week in Brazil to discuss how the world can develop more sustainably.” She writes, “Following three long days of discussions on water, climate change and other sustainable development topics to advocate for this group of debilitating diseases, I left feeling there were some hopeful signs.” She discusses the final outcome document from the conference, titled “The Future We Want,” (.pdf) and writes that “with 2.5 billion people not having access to adequate sanitation it was the evolution from just discussing the right to access water to discussing water AND sanitation that was so refreshing” (6/28).
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).
“As a young woman, I felt confident in my future because I knew I had the power to plan my family,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “What if every girl and woman in the world, even the poorest, had the opportunity to determine her future?” she asks and provides video footage of her addressing this question on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Wednesday. “Surely, there’s no controversy in all of us coming together to help women and girls lead healthy and productive lives,” she writes and asks readers to “pledge [their] support around the uncontroversial idea that every girl and woman deserves the opportunity to determine her future” (6/28).
Noting that the “[r]oll-out of antiretroviral treatment for HIV in sub-Saharan Africa has been accompanied by rising rates of drug resistance,” Raph Hamers, a global health research fellow at the Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam, and colleagues “call for improved patient management and the integration of population-based drug resistance surveillance into national treatment programs” in this BMJ analysis. “In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest HIV/AIDS burden, high-level political commitment and substantial international funding have led to an unparalleled scale-up of access to treatment over the past eight years,” they write, adding, “However, little attention has been paid to the potential emergence and spread of drug-resistant HIV and its public health implications.”
In a feature story, Al Jazeera examines Cuba’s national health care system, which “works — or is supposed to work — by emphasizing primary and preventative health care.” However, after subsidies from the former Soviet Union “ended and Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin, nothing was the same again,” according to the news agency, which notes the system experiences drug shortages, patients have long wait times, and some hospitals are dirty or malfunctioning. “In all fairness, in the past five years, the government has made great efforts to improve hospitals and health centers, but again, lack of resources is making the process painfully slow,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “The system is free, but it is neither fast nor efficient for two important reasons. One is obviously the lack of financial resources, and the other — which is related to the first — is the ‘export’ of doctors, nurses and dentists in exchange for hard currency.” The feature concludes, “But for all its shortcomings, Cubans do have better access to health care than the majority of those living in many ‘developing nations,’ where public health is shockingly inadequate” (Newman, 6/18).