The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released two reports on issues related to global health. In “Ensuring Drug Quality in Global Health Programs,” the agency writes, “Concerns have been raised about the potential for substandard drugs to enter the supply chains of global health programs,” and notes that it concluded, “U.S.-funded global health programs have put regulatory and policy requirements in place to help prevent procurement of substandard drugs” (8/1). In another report looking at the WHO, titled “Reform Agenda Developed, but U.S. Actions to Monitor Progress Could be Enhanced,” GAO found, “The United States has provided input into WHO’s reform agenda, particularly in the areas of transparency and accountability, but the Department of State’s (State) tool for assessing progress in the area of management reform could be enhanced” (7/23).
Some members of Congress “are advocating deep cuts to funding for domestic programs such as [the Ryan White CARE Act] and international programs such as the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] and PEPFAR,” but “[w]hat these critics fail to realize is that though we have won a multitude of battles, we are still losing the war in many communities,” Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) writes in a U.S. News & World Report opinion piece. “We must continue to find innovative, targeted solutions in the fight against this dreaded disease,” he continues, adding, “There are many of us in Congress who recognize this important fact, chief among those are my dear friend Rep. Barbara Lee [D-Calif.], whose upcoming ‘Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012’ targets at-risk populations both domestically and internationally.” Honda concludes, “From legislative action on the federal level to grassroots efforts in state communities, we need to make targeting these communities a top priority in order to move forward. This requires advocacy, this requires commitment, and most importantly, it requires more investment” (7/27).
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) “announced Thursday that he would release his hold on the $250 million meant to go from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” saying “he was swayed by conversations at the International AIDS Conference [AIDS 2012] under way in Washington, D.C.,” The Hill’s “Healthwatch” blog reports (Viebeck, 7/26). “My biggest concern about the transfer was the shortfalls this may cause in our bilateral efforts to combat HIV/AIDS,” Lugar said, according to a press release from the senator’s office (7/26). “‘The leaders I met with this week expressed their confidence that the money is a worthy investment, and, given their strong leadership, I have decided to lift my hold on the transfer funds,’ Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a written statement,” CQ HealthBeat notes (Ethridge/Cadei, 7/26). In related news, the U.S. Senate on Thursday introduced and passed a resolution “expressing support for the XIX International AIDS Conference and the sense of the Senate that continued commitment by the United States to HIV/AIDS research, prevention, and treatment programs is crucial to protecting global health,” the New York Times’ “Inside Congress” reports (7/26).
The Center for Global Development’s “Global Health Policy” blog reports on a session at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) examining “how PEPFAR and the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] could collaborate more strategically to maximize impact.” According to the blog, the session “featured insight from high-level PEPFAR and Global Fund officials, focused on the progress made and challenges faced as the two funding agencies try to increase collaboration,” and was “followed by three country-level perspectives from Haiti, Tanzania and Malawi” (Duran, 7/26).
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., joined former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) for a panel discussion on bipartisanship “focusing on sustaining the engagement of the U.S. Congress in order to demonstrate and encourage continued U.S. leadership in the fight against global AIDS,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Mazzotta, 7/25). During the session, Rubio “expressed strong support for foreign aid, especially funding to combat HIV/AIDS,” and Lee “recounted with Frist the history of U.S. efforts to provide global funding,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Adams, 7/25). “‘We have to keep our eyes on the prize,’ and focus on moving forward and figuring out how to work together in a bipartisan way. It happened in the past, [Lee] said, and we can do it again,” “Science Speaks” writes (7/25). Coons “recommended the United States ‘double down’ on investments for AIDS,” in order to “‘innovate and cure our way out of this. That, I think, is in keeping with the optimism and the entrepreneurship of the American character,’ added Mr. Coons,” the Washington Times notes. The discussion was “punctuated by protesters with red umbrellas and signs calling for an end to the ‘criminalization’ of sex workers, drug addicts and other marginalized groups with AIDS,” the Washington Times writes (Wetzstein, 7/25).
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, in an interview with the Guardian, “said he was passionately committed to ending absolute poverty, which threatens survival and makes progress impossible for the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day,” the news service writes. According to the Guardian, Kim “is determined to eradicate global poverty through goals, targets and measuring success in the same way that he masterminded an AIDS drugs campaign for poor people nearly a decade ago,” and he “will set ‘a clear, simple goal’ in the eradication of absolute poverty” (Boseley, 7/25). In a related post in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Kim speaks to correspondent John Donnelly “about the Bank’s focus on eradicating poverty and fighting AIDS.” “Good health is always going to remain a part of a much larger agenda to move people out of poverty,” he says in the interview, adding, “The Bank’s focus has appropriately been on health systems” (7/24).
The U.S. Census Bureau on Monday launched an interactive global resource on the prevalence of HIV infection and AIDS cases and deaths, which contains 149,000 statistics, making it the “most complete of its kind in the world,” according to a Census Bureau press release. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby said, “This release of the HIV/AIDS database will expand global access to data that are critical to understanding the epidemic. This information is invaluable for the evidence-based response PEPFAR is championing,” according to the press release (7/23). Also on Monday, the Humanitarian Information Unit in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research released two maps. The first (.pdf) depicts where PEPFAR supported HIV/AIDS programs in fiscal year 2011, and the second (.pdf) shows where PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria support HIV/AIDS programs throughout the world, according to an email announcement (7/23).
In 2010, after allegations of fraud among some fund recipients in several countries, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria convened “an independent, high-level panel to review its financial controls and how grant money is spent,” and the Fund “is now implementing the panel’s recommendations,” PlusNews reports. At the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), the news service interviewed Mark Eldon-Edington, the Global Fund’s director of country programs, “to find out what the changes in the grant-making process will mean for beneficiaries.” Eldon-Edington discusses the reasons for focusing on grant-making reform, what changes have already been made, and how the changes will affect countries in future grant rounds, among other issues (7/24).
In a round-up of events from the XIX International AIDS Conference on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Trevor DeWitt, new media communications officer for the foundation, notes that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Monday released results “showing broad gains in the number of people receiving HIV treatment” (7/23). According to a Global Fund press release, “The results show that 3.6 million people living with HIV are now receiving antiretroviral treatment under programs backed by the Global Fund, an increase of 600,000 since the end of 2010.” In addition, “Overall, 8.7 million lives have been saved by programs supported by the Global Fund since the organization was formed in 2002. The results include data through June 2012,” the press release states (7/23).
Jonathan Klein, board chair of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and co-founder and CEO of Getty Images, writes in a guest post on Forbes, “The U.S. government has long been the world’s most stalwart Global Fund supporter, and U.S. leadership continues to be the most effective tool in leveraging additional resources for the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, particularly at a time when budgets are universally tight.” He notes that “[f]or every $1 invested by U.S. taxpayers, the Global Fund leverages at least $2 more from international donors. And that money translates directly into lifesaving prevention and treatment.” Klein says, “Continued U.S. leadership is essential to maintain these gains and reach our health goals. … With sustained strong support, policymakers in Washington can continue to be responsible … for the uptick in people living healthy, productive lives.” Noting that U.S. foreign aid accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget, he concludes, “But it reaps enormous rewards in generating global good will, boosting national security, saving lives and creating a safer, more stable world for all of us” (7/23).