News outlets continued to examine the 2009 AIDS epidemic update released Tuesday by the WHO and UNAIDS: “The U.N. report said ‘AIDS continues to be a major public-health priority’ and called for more funds to support efforts to curb the epidemic and to distribute lifesaving drugs,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The U.N. report also suggested that health authorities need to focus resources on those most at risk” (Fairclough, 11/25).
This week the WHO brought together lawmakers from across Southeast Asia in Bangkok “to discuss how to bolster their health systems back home,” IRIN reports. Meeting participants were “called on to advocate the boosting of health spending, workforces and access to health care in their home countries in addition to drafting ‘healthy public policies,’ such as conducting health assessments before large infrastructural projects are undertaken,” the news service writes.
“[O]ften seen in the wealthy West as a disease of bygone eras,” Reuters examines rising rates of tuberculosis (TB) — drug-resistant TB in particular — among the world’s rich and poor. “[R]apidly rising rates of drug-resistant TB in some of the wealthiest cities in the world, as well as across Africa and Asia, are again making history,” Reuters writes. According to the news service, “London has been dubbed the ‘tuberculosis capital of Europe,’ and a startling recent study documenting new cases of so-called ‘totally drug-resistant’ TB in India suggests the modern-day tale of this disease could get a lot worse.”
Using data from cancer registries worldwide, researchers from the International Agency for Cancer Research (IACR) found that 169.3 million years of healthy life were lost to cancer in 2008, according to a study published on Tuesday in the Lancet, HealthDay News reports. Using “a measure called disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) to assess not only the impact of fatal cancer, but also the effects of disabilities among cancer survivors,” the researchers also found men in Eastern Europe and women in sub-Saharan Africa had the largest cancer burden worldwide; increased access to treatment has not improved survival outcomes for several common cancers; and lower-income countries have higher average levels of premature death due to cancer, while higher-income countries have higher average levels of cancer-related disability and impairment, according to the news service. Study co-author Freddie Bray, deputy head of the IARC Cancer Information Section, said in a Lancet press release, “Our findings illustrate quite starkly how cancer is already a barrier to sustainable development in many of the poorest countries across the world and this will only be exacerbated in the coming years if cancer control is neglected,” the news service notes (10/15).
“Achieving the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the prevalence of hunger in the world by 2015 is still within reach, but a strong, sustained acceleration of efforts is needed,” U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva writes in a Reuters opinion piece. He notes a new report from the Rome food agencies shows the “global number of chronically hungry people has declined by 130 million since 1990, falling from a little over one billion people to 868 million — 852 million of them in developing countries.”
During a meeting with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe on Tuesday, Indonesia Minister of Health Nafsiah Mboi “pledged to scale up HIV testing and treatment programs” with a “focus on 141 districts where key affected populations are the highest,” a UNAIDS feature story reports. “Indonesia also plans to become one of several countries in the region to offer universal health care by 2014,” with HIV treatment to be covered, according to the health ministry, UNAIDS notes. Sidibe said, “Indonesia is a key partner in the drive to end the AIDS epidemic. … Universal health coverage is a game changer for Indonesia. I am delighted to know that HIV treatment will be included in this national program. This sets the stage for sustainable funding of HIV programs,” the article states. “The Ministry of Health estimates that more than 600,000 people are living with HIV and that there are more than 76,000 new HIV infections each year,” according to UNAIDS, which adds, “Currently HIV treatment coverage is at less than 20 percent” (10/23).
The number of children who die before age 5 has declined by one-third since 1990, Reuters reports.
A new evidence-based map estimates that in 2009 2.85 billion people lived “at risk of infection” with the malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax, reports BMJ News. A new study, published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, shows P vivax “is more widespread and potentially represents a greater burden on human health in some parts of the world than P falciparum, the species usually associated with the greatest mortality and morbidity,” BMJ News writes (Moszynski, 8/3).
South Asia is “lagging behind” in poverty and hunger reduction and is “in danger” of missing key Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, a U.N. official told Asian ministers gathered to discuss MDGs progress, Agence France-Presse reports. At the meeting, “senior officials told delegates from dozens of countries that global food, energy and financial crises in recent years had jeopardized progress toward achieving the goals set for 2015,” the news service writes.
ASEAN Representatives Participate In Week-Long Exercise Aimed At Improving Region’s Pandemic Response
A group of experts from Southeast Asia gathered in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Monday for the start of a week-long exercise to help bolster “the capabilities of [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] ASEAN member states, both individually and collectively, to prepare for and respond to a severe pandemic with potentially devastating effects on the region,” Agence France-Presse reports (8/17).