The New York Times reports on efforts by the GAVI Alliance to deliver vaccines for children in war-torn and secretive countries. According to the newspaper, the non-profit group “sold to North Korea a vaccine against five diseases, and has announced plans to roll out other vaccines soon in Yemen, the Republic of Congo and Pakistan.” The newspaper notes that the alliance “does not do the vaccinating, but negotiates low prices from manufacturers and resells the vaccines at prices on a sliding scale, depending on a country’s gross national income per capita.” According to the New York Times, “[F]irst the group studies whether the country can use the vaccine — whether officials can keep it refrigerated even in rural villages, for example, and whether there are enough trained vaccinators” (McNeil, 7/30).
Bill Gates Stresses Importance Of Investment In Both HIV Treatment And Research For Vaccines, Microbicides
In a symposium session on Monday at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., politicians and public health experts joined Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates for a discussion about improving effectiveness and efficiency in the HIV/AIDS response, the Washington Post reports (Brown/Botelho, 7/23). “Gates … reiterated the importance for nations and donors to support research, but also expressed support for ongoing treatment initiatives in the meantime,” according to Agence France-Presse. “No one should think that we have got the tools yet. We will get the tools but only if we stay the course in terms of the scientific investments,” Gates said, AFP notes (Sheridan, 7/23). The Washington Post adds that “[t]he main one lacking is a vaccine, but also important and missing are woman-controlled means to prevent infection, such as a vaginal microbicide” (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).
Noting the International AIDS Conference is being held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on an event with “government leaders, philanthropists, faith leaders, entrepreneurs and entertainers at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre [Saturday] night to recognize what the world has achieved in turning the tide on AIDS,” in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. Gates says the event “offered a great stage to share success stories and talk about the importance of sustained HIV funding,” and concludes, “Americans can be justifiably proud of the tremendous moral leadership that the U.S. has taken in producing breakthrough innovations in the fight against HIV” (7/22).
“Too few people realize that the health of Americans and the health of people around the world are inextricably linked,” Kevin De Cock, director of the Center for Global Health of the CDC, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. He continues, “In short, investing in global health isn’t just about humanitarianism. Cooperation across borders is essential in an increasingly connected world where diseases move as freely as people and products. It is in America’s interest to be a true global partner on health” (7/19).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, reflects on the London Summit on Family Planning, which took place last week, writing, “I was humbled and thrilled by the world’s commitment to put women and girls back at the heart of the global health agenda. … Their enthusiasm shows that family planning is a high priority in the countries where many women and girls lack access, and that is the key to success in the long term” (7/18). In a related post on the blog, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division at the foundation, writes, “At the Summit, the clear consensus among the participants was that responding to unmet need for family planning is a human right and we have an obligation to act. … Stakeholders agreed that women must be at the center of family planning decision-making at all levels” (7/18).
In a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, the foundation’s Gary Darmstadt, Wendy Prosser, and Andrew Serazin discuss the finalists of the Saving Lives at Birth initiative, who came together at last week’s DevelopmentXChange in Seattle. “This venue brought global health experts and entrepreneurs together to share with each other, to discover what other researchers are experimenting with, to see what for-profit innovations could be applied to public health in low-resource settings,” they write, noting that Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, “called for innovations for women, something which has been sorely neglected in public health.” They conclude, “We hope that this process has sparked further innovation and creativity around the world, and inspired experts from all fields to share experiences and knowledge. It’s that collective energy from a diverse set of experts that will save lives at birth” (7/18).
“In the build-up to the London Summit on Family Planning, there have been a lot of opinions expressed on blogs, in mainstream media coverage, in peer-reviewed journals, and even exchanges on the streets and at the water cooler,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Family Health Division, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “And it has been great to see the conversations happening, even with the criticisms and resistance that we have sometimes felt from both conservative and liberal sides of the issue while preparing for the Summit,” he continues. He adds, “I look forward to the exciting times to come as the Summit has concluded, commitments have been made, and now we put the conversations that have been building up for the last few months into action to bring contraceptives to 120 million new users in the next eight years” (7/16).
Gates Foundation's Efforts To Improve Access To Contraceptives Will Improve Health, Lives Of Women, Children
“Supporters of women’s health ought to cheer the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s plan” to provide $1 billion over eight years to increasing women’s access to contraceptives and family planning services because the “effort underscores the critical role of family planning in the international battle to reduce poverty and improve maternal health,” a Seattle Times editorial states. While “Catholic leaders” and “social conservatives” might not agree with the effort, “Bill and Melinda Gates are not looking for a political or religious fight over women’s rights; they’re looking to add their resources to efforts to improve the lives and health of women and children,” according to the editorial.
“Voluntary family planning services will reach an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries by 2020 thanks to a new set of commitments announced [at the London Summit on Family Planning on Wednesday] by more than 150 leaders from donor and developing countries, international agencies, civil society, foundations and the private sector,” a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation press release reports (7/11). Donors “pledged $2.6 billion over the next eight years at [the summit], in what was described as a breakthrough for the world’s poorest women and girls,” the Guardian writes, adding, “More than 20 developing countries made commitments to boost spending on family planning and to strengthen women’s rights to ease their access to contraception” (Tran, 7/11). Speaking at the summit, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, announced the foundation “will spend more than $1 billion over the next eight years to increase access to contraceptives in the developing world and research new methods of birth control” and “outlined several of the initiatives [the foundation] will focus on in the coming years, including efforts to bring down the cost of birth control so that it will be within reach of the world’s poorest women,” the Seattle Times notes (Doughton, 7/11).