“After 14 years in limbo,” legislation being considered by the Philippines Congress would “requir[e] the government to provide contraceptives, information on modern family planning methods at public health centers, and comprehensive reproductive health curriculum in schools,” CNN reports. “National surveys show 65-70 percent of Filipinos support the bill, but it faces fierce opposition by the country’s Roman Catholic Church leaders,” according to the news service (Lichauco de Leon, 9/4). “When Philippines President Benigno Aquino III delivered his annual state of the union address in July, he appealed to the country’s lawmakers to break a deadlock” on the reproductive health bill, Inter Press Service writes (Macan-Markar, 9/4).
“Despite pledges from governments across Eastern Europe and Central Asia to fight HIV/AIDS — one of the eight Millennium Development Goals — the region has the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemic,” Inter Press Service reports in an article examining challenges to stemming the spread of the disease, particularly among injection drug users. “Punitive drug policies, discrimination and problems with access to medicines and important therapy are all driving an epidemic which is unlikely to be contained, world experts say, until governments in countries with the worst problems change key policies and approaches to the disease,” the news service writes. According to experts and activists, a lack of opiate-substitution therapy (OST) and needle-exchange programs, as well as discrimination against and “active persecution” of drug users who try to access therapy programs, contributes to the spread of HIV, IPS notes (Stracansky, 9/3).
“The non-communicable disease [NCD] community always talks about the importance of prevention; many consider it the Holy Grail in the fight against NCDs. Why was it so hard to also accept treatment as part of the solution?” Princess Dina Mired, director general of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation in Amman, Jordan, asks in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, noting only one target of the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs “deals with treatment, the target on ‘essential medicines and basic technologies for treatment.'” She continues, “Treatment and prevention are heavily interrelated. The success of one is directly related to the other.” She adds, “A person in the developing world will not buy in to the importance of prevention if there is no treatment option available should that person get the disease.”
World Bank, Bangladeshi Government Sign Multi-Donor Trust Fund Agreement For Country's Health Sector
“On Wednesday, the World Bank and the Bangladeshi government signed a Multi-Donor Trust Fund Grant Agreement” under which “$280 million coming from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Sweden will go to the Bangladesh Health Sector Development Program, which aims to improve the health status of people in Bangladesh, particularly women, children and the marginalized,” the Devex “Development Newswire” reports. “The government will finance 75 percent of the program,” and “[t]he World Bank will also provide a $359 million credit through its anti-poverty arm, the International Development Association,” the news service writes (Ravelo, 9/13). “The program will focus on improving emergency obstetric and newborn care services and the nutritional status of expectant mothers and their children” and “will also strengthen health sector planning and resource management, human resources development, management of pharmaceuticals, health information systems and maintenance of health care facilities,” a World Bank press release states (9/12).
Rwanda next week will host the Conference on Social Health Protection in the East African Community, which “will consider various approaches to providing universal health coverage in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi,” VOA News reports. The news service highlights a new study on universal coverage, published in the WHO Bulletin, “that reviewed health systems in 12 African and Asian countries” and, based on “impact indicators” that include “the way financial resources are collected to fund insurance plans, the amount of coverage provided to recipients, whether that coverage is provided to all segments of society and whether there’s been an improvement in the quality of life,” found “social and community health insurance plans ‘hold untapped potential’ for achieving universal coverage.” According to VOA, study author Ernst Spaan of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands said “that the study’s findings ‘back the World Health Organization’s view that pre-paid financing mechanisms, such as health insurance, are a key route to universal coverage'” (DeCapua, 9/4).
Ugandan Parliamentarians Threaten To Hold Up National Budget Unless More Funding Committed To Health Care
In Uganda, where “there are fewer than two health workers for every 1,000 people — a level the World Health Organization defines as a severe shortage” — the nation’s parliamentary “social services committee, which has initial oversight of the country’s health budget, pushed a resolution through parliament last week threatening to hold up approval of the entire budget unless funding to recruit and retain new health workers is increased,” VOA News reports. “Committee members, with support from the Women’s Parliamentary Association, called for a specific increase of at least $103 million to the sector,” the news service notes. “In addition to the funding increase, the parliamentarians are calling for an end to a wage freeze for current employees and a ban on recruiting new health workers,” as well as “demanding a supplementary pool of money to improve health care in communities that are particularly short staffed,” according to the news service.
“The notion that diseases or contamination somehow recognize geographic or political borders is a dangerous illusion. … Fortunately, the United States has a broad, diverse, and world-class range of experience and expertise in dealing with all manner of global health issues,” Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), writes in a perspective piece in the Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Citing some examples of the government’s work in global health, he continues, “With such a wide array of professionals and departments within HHS working on global efforts to prevent disease, promote health, and strengthen partnerships, we needed to find a way to pull together our work and bring it into a coherent whole.” Therefore, “the Office of Global Affairs recently unveiled the HHS Global Health Strategy (GHS) at the beginning of 2012,” he notes.
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — an innovative financing mechanism that subsidizes the cost of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in order to expand access to the most effective treatment for malaria — “brought more than 100 million doses of malaria drugs to clinics and pharmacies in 2011” and “also increased access to the top malaria medicines by 26 to 52 percent in six countries,” according to results from the first phase of the program, which is hosted and managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. The results of the evaluation, released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., do not estimate how many lives were saved because of improved access to effective malaria medications, as “AMFm ran for only a year and half in most countries,” according to the blog. “The AMFm negotiated with drugmakers to reduce ACTs prices, and then the Global Fund subsidized the initial purchasing of the drugs by clinics and pharmacies,” the blog notes.
“If left unaddressed, [non-communicable diseases (NCDs)] will lead to more death, disability and the implosion of already overburdened health systems in developing countries at huge cost to individuals, families, businesses and society,” Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and former UNAIDS executive director, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, adding, “Like AIDS, NCDs are a problem for rich and poor countries alike, but the poor suffer the most.” He continues, “The 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on NCDs — only the second time the U.N. had convened a major meeting on a health issue, following the U.N. AIDS Summit in June 2001 — was a landmark event in the short history of the fight against NCDs but was not a tipping point. Much more remains to be done.”
“Following criticism over a spate of patient deaths from adverse events during clinical trials, India has begun tightening up rules for clinical research and compensation as well as expanding its pool of medical experts,” SciDev.Net reports. A health ministry official said the ministry would submit to Parliament amendments to existing laws with the aim of strengthening the approval process for clinical trials, according to the news service. In addition, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) is expanding its pool of experts, “has asked ethics committees for tougher inspection regimes,” and in August “issued guidelines on compensation to be paid in case of clinical trials-related death or injury,” the news service notes. According to SciDev.Net, “These steps follow the report of a parliamentary committee, in May 2012, which found that a large number of imported drugs had been cleared without trials,” “includ[ing] drugs that had failed to be cleared for use in the parent countries” (Sreelata, 9/12).