The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog continued its coverage of the 2nd International Treatment as Prevention Workshop in Vancouver. One post describes a presentation by Zunyou Wu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who “offered … new information about China’s response to new evidence on treatment as prevention” (Lubinski, 4/25). A second post discusses a presentation by Vladimir Novitsky of the Harvard School of Public Health, who “offered … a snapshot of a four-year treatment as prevention study planned for Botswana (Lubinski, 4/25). “Chewe Luo, a senior adviser for UNICEF, discussed efforts to eliminate vertical HIV transmission from the perspective of treatment as prevention,” according to a third post (Lubinski, 4/26). Finally, Stephen Lawn of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine “reminded the audience … that antiretroviral therapy (ART) goes a long way to protect HIV-infected individuals from tuberculosis (TB),” a fourth post notes (Lubinski, 4/26).
A strain of malaria that is resistant to artemether, the main ingredient in Coartem, a widely used drug to treat the disease, may be spreading in Africa, according to a study published Thursday in Malaria Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “Studies in Cambodia and Thailand have shown that drugs based on artemisinin, the class of remedies to which artemether belongs, are becoming less effective there,” the news service writes, adding that study author Sanjeev Krishna of the University of London said, “Drug resistance could eventually become a devastating problem in Africa, and not just in southeast Asia where most of the world is watching for resistance.” According to the authors, “[t]he effectiveness of other artemisinin-based drugs, such as artesunate, wasn’t significantly affected by the mutations,” the news service states (Bennett, 4/26).
South Africa’s Science Minister Urges African Researchers To Become More Involved In Solving Continent’s Health Problems
“South Africa’s science minister, Naledi Pandor, has called for increased efforts by African nations to build both a greater ability to carry out research relevant to their specific health challenges, and the capacity to put such research to use,” SciDev.Net reports. “‘It is essential that African researchers become involved in finding solutions for the problems of Africa,’ Pandor told the opening of Forum 2012, a three-day meeting on health research which opened in Cape Town” on Tuesday, the news service writes, noting that the forum, “held under the title ‘Beyond Aid,’ … identifies research and innovation as ‘key drivers for health, equity and development.’”
“[D]espite high prevalence rates of HIV among [men who have sex with men (MSM)], funding for HIV prevention, treatment and care consistently neglects these populations, often due to stigma and discrimination,” Owen Ryan, deputy director of public policy at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, writes in this guest post in the Funders Concerned About AIDS blog. “In our report, ‘Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation for Gay Men and Other MSM,’ we found that MSM are neglected and marginalized by national HIV responses throughout the world, even in countries where MSM are a significant proportion of all HIV infections,” he notes, concluding, “As a funding community, we still have more to do. Our investments can be transformative. Whether establishing best practices, funding civil society advocacy, or investing in program delivery, this funding helps establish a bridge from policy to practice and often creates the kind of pressure that makes neglecting MSM very difficult” (4/24).
U.S. Government Releases $120M In Emergency Assistance To Help Drought-Affected West African Countries
In a press statement released on Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is “‘deeply concerned’ about the humanitarian situation in West Africa” and announced $120 million in emergency assistance, United Press International reports. According to the news service, the U.N. “estimates that more than 15 million people are facing food shortages and malnutrition due to a lingering drought” and “more than one million children are threatened” (3/30).
According to a study published in the Lancet on Saturday, researchers from the University of Pelotas in Brazil tracking progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 — which promote maternal and child health — “discovered that the most equitable intervention was early initiation of breast feeding, and that the attendance of a skilled person at birth proved to be the least equitable intervention,” Medical News Today reports. “The findings furthermore revealed that community-based interventions were more equally distributed in comparison with those delivered in health facilities,” MNT writes, noting that the “most inequitable countries of the evaluated interventions were Chad, Ethiopia, Laos, Nigeria, Niger and Somalia, followed by India, Madagascar and Pakistan, with the most equitable countries being Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan” (Rattue, 4/2).
As part of its “AIDS Turning Point” series, GlobalPost examines how the United States and its African partners are designing clinical trials at four African sites to test whether a combination of prevention methods and strategies — “notably the vaccine-like preventative effect on transmission when someone starts taking AIDS drugs, as well as the life-long protection afforded to many due to male circumcision” — could “put them on the road to a Holy Grail: the numbers of HIV infections tumbling down.”
Isobel Coleman, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, examines the “massive food crisis … brewing in Africa’s Sahel” in this post on CFR’s “Democracy in Development” blog. She writes, “The hunger crisis is most immediately tied to inadequate rainfall, small crop yields, and high food prices, but conflict makes the situation all the more severe,” and goes on to highlight the situations in Mali and Niger. She says ending the “‘buy American’ tied aid policy,” implementing longer-term solutions other than food aid, and providing additional funding for relief efforts would help alleviate the situation in the Sahel (7/4).
In this audio report in PRI’s “The World,” PRI anchor “Aaron Schachter talks to Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher on women’s rights in Africa for New York-based Human Rights Watch, about the terrible toll of teenage pregnancy and childbirth in Africa.” “Teenage pregnancy is an issue of pandemic proportions in Africa,” Odhiambo said, adding, “Teenage pregnancy is really an issue that has serious negative consequences for girls, for the development of communities and for the development of cultures.” She discussed progress toward reducing maternal deaths in various African countries and said that a number of factors contribute to maternal mortality, including a lack of sexual education for young girls, some traditional practices, such as early marriage, and the inadequate provision of health services (7/3).
“Earlier this week the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, U.K. hosted a conference called New Approaches to Maternal Mortality in Africa,” Paul Simpson, the associate editor at PLoS Medicine, reports in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, writing, “The conference brought together diverse expertise from obstetricians to policymakers and historians with the aim of focusing on both the biological mechanisms from determining birth outcomes, as well as the social and historical context of maternal mortality in Africa.” Simpson posts a video interview with conference organizer Professor Ashley Moffett, who discusses the motivations behind the conference, and a second video “featuring Annette Nakimuli, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Uganda, who discusses her research on preeclampsia and her experiences working in Uganda” (7/4).