“Although circumcision’s effect on protection against HIV is clear — three studies have shown a 60 percent reduction in risk to men — as a public health strategy, it is fraught with caveats,” the Washington Post reports. Though uncertainty exists about the degree of protection the procedure provides, especially for specific groups such as men who have sex with men, and “[m]any ethnic groups have strong cultural traditions against the procedure,” “many AIDS researchers and advocates view it as a strategy that needs far more promotion since it provides some protection to men having sex with infected women,” according to the newspaper. The article includes a summary of data and studies on circumcision (Brown, 7/25).
ABC News’ “OTUS” blog features an interview with former first lady Laura Bush, who discusses the importance of foreign aid and how she and her husband, former President George W. Bush, “will be building off the success of [PEPFAR] and continuing to work to fight AIDS in Africa and worldwide,” including “help[ing] women in developing countries screen for cervical cancer” (Karl/Wolf, 7/25). Laura Bush is scheduled to speak at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Thursday, and a webcast of the session, “Leadership in the AIDS Response for Women,” will be available online from the Kaiser Family Foundation (7/26).
“Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is now the center of a cholera epidemic after the first confirmed case surfaced in the north of the country in February,” IRIN reports, noting, “Since January, Sierra Leone has seen 4,249 cases of cholera and 76 people have died from the waterborne disease” (7/25). In related news, “[c]onflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where M23 rebels and other armed groups are fighting government forces, is dangerously undermining efforts to combat a cholera outbreak” in the country, IRIN writes in a separate article. According to the news service, “There has been ‘a sharp increase in the number of cholera cases in the armed conflict area of North Kivu’ Province, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement” (7/25).
International medicines financing mechanism UNITAID said on Monday it “will invest more than $140 million to evaluate point-of-care [PoC] HIV diagnostic and monitoring technology in seven African countries,” PlusNews reports, adding, “New technology could help put more people living with HIV on treatment faster and improve care, UNITAID partners said at the international AIDS conference in Washington, D.C.” (7/25). “The investment … is being committed to projects implemented by the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), UNICEF and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to increase access to affordable point-of-care HIV diagnostics adapted for use in resource-poor settings,” aidsmap notes in a news story on its webpage (Smart, 7/24).
“Resistance to AIDS drugs, a problem that has been widely feared over the last decade, is growing in parts of Africa but should not hamper the life-saving drug rollout, researchers reported on Monday” in a study published in the Lancet, Agence France-Presse reports. “Over eight years, prevalence of resistant virus in untreated people soared from around one percent to 7.3 percent in eastern Africa, and from one percent to 3.7 percent in southern Africa,” the news agency writes, adding that while “[s]imilar rates of 3.5-7.6 percent were also found in western and central Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” those rates remained fairly stable over the study period (7/23). “The authors of the new report suggested strengthening pharmacy supply chains to prevent shortages — a chronic problem in poor countries. They also called for better tracking of patients for whom drugs are prescribed,” the New York Times notes (McNeil, 7/23).
“Results from a groundbreaking trial of three drugs given in combination — one of them completely new and one not yet licensed for this use — killed more than 99 percent of patients’ [tuberculosis (TB)] bacteria after two weeks of treatment,” and the combination “appears to be equally effective on drug-resistant TB,” the Guardian reports (Boseley, 7/23). The combination “comprises a candidate TB drug called PA-824, the antibiotic moxifloxacin not yet approved for TB therapy, and an existing TB drug, pyrazinamide,” Agence France-Presse writes, noting the combination is called PaMZ (7/23). “Because the combination doesn’t contain isoniazid or rifampicin, the two main medicines used against TB, it also may provide a much-needed weapon against strains that fail to succumb to those drugs and are spreading, the researchers wrote,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Bennett, 7/23). The Phase II study, which was presented on Monday at the International AIDS Conference in Washington and published in the Lancet, “needs to be confirmed in larger and longer trials,” according to Reuters (Steenhuysen, 7/23).
The Daily Beast’s “U.S. Policy” blog profiles former president George W. Bush’s post-presidency work in global health through the Bush Institute, which “houses a variety of programs under the broad headings of global health, education reform, economic growth, and advancing human freedom, areas that advance Bush’s interests and reflect his presidency.” The blog writes, “Now that he’s been out of the White House for almost four years, [Bush's] post-presidency is coming into sharper relief, and there’s a lot for his critics to admire.” The blog highlights his recent trips to Africa with wife Laura Bush, during which they focused on efforts to expand cervical and breast cancer detection and treatment (Clift, 7/23).
“African nations are not receiving adequate international funding to fight HIV/AIDS, leaving them to face catastrophic consequences without enough medication, an independent, global medical and humanitarian organization said Thursday,” the Associated Press reports. “In a statement released in Johannesburg ahead of the [AIDS 2012] conference in Washington starting July 22, [Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)] said African countries worst affected by the pandemic were the least able to provide ‘the best science’ available to fight it,” the news service writes.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet, deputy director of the Peace Corps, discusses the agency’s work in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support in an AIDS.gov blog post. “Last year alone, 52 percent of all Peace Corps Volunteers engaged in such work in communities overseas,” she writes, noting, “In 2013, through the Global Health Service Partnership, we look forward to placing doctors and nurses as adjunct faculty in training institutions in Africa.” She says that every volunteer working in Africa is trained in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, outlines how volunteers contribute to the fight against the disease, and concludes, “So many of today’s inequalities, such as poverty, hunger, and HIV/AIDS, still loom large in much of our world. But, even as we face new challenges, we must continue to work together to make sure we can achieve an AIDS-free generation” (7/18).
With Africa’s “emerging position in the global order, … [a]stute African leaders are striving to ensure that this realignment delivers a new paradigm of partnership for sustainable health development — a partnership that is led by Africa, for Africans, through African-sourced solutions,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in a Huffington Post “Impact Blog” opinion piece. The African Union is taking steps “to reduce the continent’s dependence on foreign solutions and foreign ‘aid’ while adopting and scaling up development solutions that have been proven to work in different African countries, and finding better and more sustainable approaches to financing them,” he states. “It makes a lot of sense to apply such an approach to addressing three killer diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria,” he continues, adding that “the overreliance of Africa’s AIDS response on foreign investments, foreign drugs and foreign solutions must be addressed.”