The results of three clinical trials published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the antiretroviral drug Truvada, a combination of tenofovir and emtracitabine, can be “highly effective at preventing infection in HIV-free individuals — as long as those individuals take the drug every day as prescribed,” CNN’s “The Chart” reports (7/11). The strategy of using antiretrovirals to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, USA Today notes. “Two studies from Africa in heterosexual patients found that the drugs reduced the rate of HIV infection by 62 percent to 75 percent, a success rate that’s comparable to results from studies of gay men,” the newspaper writes, adding, “A third study in African women at high risk of infection, however, was ended early after researchers saw the drugs had no effect on HIV rates, largely because fewer than 40 percent of study participants took their pills as instructed” (Szabo, 7/11).
UNICEF and the WHO “are warning of an alarming upsurge in cholera across West Africa’s Sahel region, the area at the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert running from Mauritania to Chad,” VOA News reports (Schlein, 7/10). “So far in 2012, cholera has killed nearly 700 people in West and Central Africa and more than 29,000 cases were reported,” according to a UNICEF press release (7/10). “Both UNICEF and WHO say they are critically short of funds to do what is needed to contain the outbreak,” but “[t]hey say action must be taken now before the number of cholera cases explodes,” VOA writes (7/10). IRIN examines efforts to curb the spread of cholera in Guinea, with the administration of a vaccine, and Sierra Leone (7/10).
“Many of Africa’s anti-malaria drugs are fake or of poor quality, weakening a crucial battle against the world’s deadliest disease, a new investigation has found,” GlobalPost reports, adding, “Many of the drugs — even those approved by the World Health Organization — are Chinese fakes or low-quality variants that failed quality tests, according to two new studies released today” (Conway-Smith, 7/10). “Two studies published in Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine suggested manufacturing problems, rather than counterfeiting, may be to blame for these substandard drugs in low- and middle-income countries around the world,” Agence France-Presse writes (7/10). Writing in a Business Day opinion piece published on Tuesday, “Roger Bate, lead author of the studies and a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, warned of ‘unthinkable’ public health consequences from drug resistance,” GlobalPost notes.
African Leaders Should 'Take Action' To Implement Human-Rights Based Laws, Policies To Enhance HIV Response
Noting the release of a report (.pdf) from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law showing that “punitive laws are standing in the way of effective AIDS responses,” Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana, and Stephen Lewis, co-director and co-founder of AIDS-Free World, both members of the commission, write in a health-e opinion piece, “We cannot hope for an HIV-free generation when we have laws that marginalize and punish those most vulnerable to the disease.” They state that certain laws and customs in Africa “undermine the ability of women to protect themselves” and marginalize sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM).
HIV Drug Coverage In Sub-Saharan Africa Continues To Improve But Not Sustainable, UNAIDS' Sidibe Says
At the end of 2011, 6.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were taking antiretroviral drugs, about 56 percent of the people in need in the region, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe noted in an interview last week, saying, “Ten years ago, nobody would have imagined that such a result would be possible,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Sidibe — visiting Paris ahead of the July 22-27 International AIDS Conference in Washington — said he was worried that African countries remained so dependent on foreign help,” the news service states. “With the exception of South Africa, 80 percent of Africans with HIV have access to drugs via funding from outside Africa. This is not sustainable. It’s even dangerous,” he said, according to the news service.
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).
NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Tuesday featured an interview of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby by host Robert Siegel. Goosby discusses PEPFAR’s success at treating people living with HIV/AIDS in other countries, including Haiti, Rwanda, and Botswana, as well as the cost of treatment. Goosby said, “[I]n the time that President Obama’s administration has taken over the helm of PEPFAR, we have gone from 1.7 million people on treatment to close to four million people on treatment. Our ability to identify, enter and retain these individuals in treatment programs is mapped out. We know where we’re going. We know what groups we have to increase our testing and outreach efforts in, and I am confident we will meet all of the World AIDS Day goals with the current budget setting.” A complete transcript and audio of the interview is available online (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).
“A global study mapping human diseases that come from animals like tuberculosis, AIDS, bird flu or Rift Valley fever has found that just 13 such diseases are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths a year,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 7/5). “The report, which was conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (U.K.) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, maps poverty, livestock-keeping and the diseases humans get from animals, and presents a ‘top 20’ list of geographical hotspots,” an ILRI press release states (7/5). The study “found that Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, as well as India have the highest zoonotic disease burdens, with widespread illness and death,” Reuters writes.
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).