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U.S. Military Medical Team Supports HIV Prevention Efforts In Botswana

In an article on the U.S. Department of Defense webpage, the American Forces Press Service reports on how a U.S. military medical team is helping the Botswana Defense Force “to promote Botswana’s national program of education, HIV screening and male circumcision surgeries to stem what’s become a national epidemic,” according to Army Col. (Dr.) Michael Kelly, an Army Reserve surgeon deployed in Botswana from the Army Reserve Medical Command in Washington. “The Botswana Ministry of Health’s goal, Kelly said, is to bring the number of new HIV diagnoses to zero by 2016, … an ambitious plan, in light of an HIV rate that has skyrocketed since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in Botswana in 1985,” the news service writes (Miles, 8/14).

Ethiopian Government Working To Improve Access To Clean Toilets, Safe Water For People Living With HIV

PlusNews examines how a lack of access to clean toilets, safe drinking water, and “information on the prevention of common opportunistic infections means many Ethiopians living with HIV continue to contract easily preventable diseases.” The news service writes, “According to the [non-governmental organization (NGO)] Wateraid, people living with HIV are often unable to access community water sources or latrines because of stigma and discrimination.” Following calls from experts for the nation to address water and sanitation issues related to HIV care and treatment programs, the Ethiopian government “has laid out ambitious plans for water, sanitation and hygiene through its Universal Access Plan II, which seeks to reach 98.5 percent of its population with access to safe water and 100 percent with access to sanitation by 2015” and “is also drafting a document called ‘Guidelines to Integrate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene into HIV Programmes,’ which lays the groundwork for incorporating safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices into all HIV care services being delivered at all levels,” PlusNews reports (8/27).

Fear Of Stigma Prevents Pregnant Women From Seeking Prenatal Care, Studies Show

Though many pregnant women are aware that treatment could save their lives and the lives of their infants if they test HIV-positive during prenatal care, a new study and literature review have found that a “[f]ear of being stigmatized as an AIDS patient is still a major barrier to good medical care for pregnant young women in many countries,” the New York Times reports. The study, published last week in PLoS Medicine, was “based on a survey of 1,777 women in rural Nyanza Province in Kenya,” according to the newspaper, which adds, “Only 44 percent of mothers in the province delivered in clinics, and the study found that a major obstacle was that they feared HIV tests.” The study’s author, Janet Turan, a professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in July also published “a review of multiple studies in many countries” that documented multiple accounts of “stigmatizing behavior,” the newspaper notes (McNeil, 8/27).

Advocacy Groups Warn Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Affect Access To Low-Cost Medications, Bloomberg Reports

Bloomberg Businessweek examines how ongoing trade negotiations related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership could affect access to quality low-cost medications, including antiretrovirals, in low- and middle-income countries. “Protecting the patents of drug makers … as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has drawn criticism from groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Public Citizen,” and “[t]he proposed accord has also spurred calls from U.S. lawmakers for greater transparency about the negotiations,” the news service writes. “The multilateral talks, the main accord being pursued by President Barack Obama’s administration, … began with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam [and] may expand after the parties invited Canada and Mexico,” the news service notes.

New HIV Test Helps Researchers Determine Incidence, Whether Prevention Strategies Work

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a new HIV test, called the Limiting Antigen Avidity Enzyme Immunoassay, that can tell whether a person contracted the virus within the last 141 days, “hugely important information for researchers, who need to know whether fewer people are becoming newly infected with HIV to determine whether a prevention program is working,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” reports. Speaking last month at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., “Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius called the new test ‘a major development that will help us better evaluate and improve our prevention efforts,'” the blog notes.

South Africa To Become First PEPFAR Country To 'Nationalize' AIDS Program

“U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to South Africa that Pretoria will begin taking more of the responsibilities for its HIV/AIDS program, part of a broader effort to overhaul the U.S. global plan for AIDS relief launched under former President George W. Bush,” Reuters reports. “On Wednesday, Clinton is expected to sign a deal to rework South Africa’s programs under [PEPFAR], allowing the government to better use the funding in its fight against the virus,” the news service writes.

Kenyan President Announces Additional Funding For National AIDS Response

“Kenya’s government, under the leadership of President Mwai Kibaki, has allocated additional funding to its national AIDS response,” UNAIDS reports in a feature story on its webpage, noting, “The announcement came last Friday during a high level advocacy meeting in Nairobi.” “President Kibaki stressed in the meeting that despite a scarcity of resources in Kenya, the Government will not waver in its commitment to the national AIDS response,” UNAIDS writes, adding, “More than 85 percent of resources for Kenya’s response to HIV currently come from development partners” (8/15).

National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases Announces HIV Vaccine Initiative Awards

“Researchers at 14 institutions will explore new approaches to designing a vaccine against HIV with awards that are part of an anticipated four-year, $34.8 million initiative, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID] announced [Tuesday],” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “The awards reflect directions suggested by previous research, as well as the need to explore new avenues toward a vaccine, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told Science Speaks,” the blog writes. “‘There are some remaining important facts that we don’t know about HIV,’ Fauci said,” adding, “There are many fundamental questions that remain unanswered,” according to the blog. “The awards are intended to allow researchers to ask those questions, he said,” the blog notes (Barton, 8/21).

Health Workers Feeling Effects Of Staff, Supply Shortages At Clinics In Southwestern Uganda

Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region’s] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).

BMJ Examines Mother-To-Mother Peer Educational Initiative

“As Southern African policymakers gather in London this month to discuss strategies for reducing new HIV infections in children, [freelance writer] Karen McColl reports on an initiative that uses affected mothers to provide support” in this BMJ feature article. BMJ provides a brief history of how the mothers2mothers (m2m) initiative — established by obstetrician Mitch Besser and colleagues to develop a model of peer education and psychosocial support — developed, writing, “What started as a few mothers providing education and support to their peers has now evolved, 10 years on, into an international program operating on 589 sites in seven countries” and “now employs 1,457 mentor mothers” (3/12).

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