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).
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).
“Southern African governments could use public spending in their battle against the extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS in their countries and still achieve a positive economic impact, argues a new paper [.pdf] from the African Development Bank (AfDB),” an AfDB press release states. The paper, titled “The Role of Fiscal Policy in Tackling the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Southern Africa,” examines the cases of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, which have the highest adult HIV prevalence in the world, and says these countries could increase productivity and gross domestic product (GDP) through “[g]overnment fiscal action on HIV/AIDS treatment,” according to the press release. “Acting optimally, the debt burden of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland could be alleviated by five percent, one percent and 13 percent of GDP respectively, says the report,” the press release states (4/25).
A coalition of “[a]id agencies said on Monday they are facing a multi-million dollar funding shortage to deal with a food crisis in the Sahel,” News24 reports. “Action Against Hunger, Oxfam, Save the Children, and World Vision said they have raised only $52 million of $250 million needed to provide emergency assistance to six million people in the region,” the news service writes, adding that the groups “have called for a donor pledging conference to rally wealthy governments and donors” (4/23). They also “are calling on G8 leaders to consider the Sahel crisis at their summit next month,” according to VOA News.
“[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).
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.'”
Despite Progress In Reducing Measles Deaths, International Community Falls Short Of 90% Reduction Target, Study Says
The number of deaths from measles fell about 74 percent between 2000 and 2010, from slightly more than 535,000 in 2000 to an estimated 139,200 people worldwide in 2010, “missing an internationally agreed target for a 90 percent fall mainly because of low vaccine coverage in India and Africa where the virus kills tens of thousands a year,” Reuters reports. A study led by the WHO and involving researchers from Penn State University and the CDC, published on Tuesday in the Lancet, “found that despite rapid progress, regular measles outbreaks in Africa and slow implementation of disease control in India were major concerns and led to the target being missed,” the news agency writes (Kelland, 4/24). According to the Associated Press/Seattle Times, “the figures come with a big grain of salt [because] scientists only had solid data for 65 countries,” and “[f]or the 128 others, they used modeling to come up with their estimates” (Cheng, 4/23). “[E]xperts say increasing vaccination rates to above 95 percent worldwide and keeping them up is the only way to eradicate measles,” according to Reuters (4/24).
In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” blog administrator Mark Phelan recounts his recent visit to Niger and Mauritania, in Africa’s Sahel region, where he was “assessing nutrition-focused humanitarian assistance.” He writes, “We are indeed facing a crisis, but I am encouraged by what is being done differently, by ways we have applied lessons learned in the Sahel during food crises in 2010 and 2005, though we still have a long way to go.” He concludes, “I am encouraged that we have learned some important lessons from past crises. The U.S., in partnership with other donors, has taken early action in response to early warnings, and together, we are saving lives” (4/20).
“USAID and MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have signed a memorandum of understanding [MOU] to increase cooperation on the topic of food security in Africa,” Globes reports. “The agreement is part of USAID’s ‘Feed the Future’ initiative” and will allow “for closer cooperation on the issue of food security in four countries: Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda,” the news service writes (Dagoni, 4/19). The MOU is “the first of its kind, according to MASHAV head Daniel Carmon, though he stressed that ‘this MOU is not the start of the relationship; it’s the continuing and the strengthening of the relationship,'” according to the Jerusalem Post. “The assistance will include help with food production and crop cycles, as well as addressing environmental issues that go beyond the agricultural sector, Carmon said,” the newspaper notes (Krieger, 4/19).
Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died April 5, may be remembered for corruption and mismanagement, but his “positive legacy” is his creation of “an agriculture-led boom in Malawi, one that pointed a way for Africa to overcome its chronic hunger, food insecurity, and periodic extreme famines,” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Despite “resistance” from the donor community, under Mutharika, “Malawi used its own paltry budget revenues to introduce a tiny [agricultural] subsidy program for the world’s poorest people, and lo and behold, production doubled within one harvest season. Malawi began to produce enough grain for itself year after year, and even became a food donor when famine struck the region. Life expectancy began to rise, and is estimated to be around 55 years for the period 2010-15,” he says.