Trade officials met last week at the U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization “to make progress on a proposal that would allow poor countries to provide inexpensive generic versions of lifesaving medications, rather than rely a single version of the same drugs under expensive patent monopolies,” but the U.S. “remained steadfast in rejecting proposals aimed at lowering the prices of existing medicines in poor countries,” the Huffington Post reports (Carter, 5/29). At the 18th session of the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP), delegates considered two proposals, according to Intellectual Property Watch. The news service notes that a South African proposal (.pdf), submitted on behalf of the African Group and the Development Agenda Group (DAG), would have assisted developing nations adapt their patent schemes “to make full use of the flexibilities available in the international patent system in the interest of public health,” and a U.S. proposal (.pdf) “warned against any weakening of patent protection as a solution to the lack of availability of medicine in developing countries” because, “the delegate said, less patent rights would be detrimental to innovation” (Saez, 5/25).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog notes that PEPFAR recently released its 8th annual report (.pdf) to Congress. “The five-page document outlines the program’s progress as of the end of fiscal year 2011 in various areas,” including the provision of antiretroviral treatment, care, and support; HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women; and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, the blog notes. The report includes sections on “leading with science,” “smart investments,” “country ownership,” and “shared responsibility,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 5/4).
“While the battle against HIV/AIDS attracts more donor funding globally than all other diseases combined, it has not diverted attention from fighting unrelated afflictions — such as malaria, measles and malnutrition — and may be improving health services overall in targeted countries, according to a study on Rwanda published” Wednesday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, an American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) press release reports. “A six-year investigation of health clinics in Rwanda by researchers at Brandeis University infuses fresh evidence into a long-standing debate about whether the intensive focus on HIV/AIDS, which in 2010 alone killed 1.8 million people, is undermining other health services, particularly in African countries that are at the epicenter of the pandemic,” the press release states (5/2).
The PBS NewsHour on Friday featured an interview of Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), by Senior Correspondent Ray Suarez, in which they discussed an FDA panel’s recommendation that the antiretroviral Truvada be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. If approved, Truvada “can be potentially very effective” as a prevention modality among specific populations at high risk of contracting HIV, Fauci said, according to the interview. Fauci also discussed the medication’s cost and concerns about adherence to the drug regimen, PBS notes (Suarez, 5/11).
“There would be more than 4.4 million more people in South Africa if it were not for the AIDS pandemic, according to a survey released on Monday” by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), SAPA/News 24 reports (1/23). Without AIDS-related deaths, the population would have been 55 million today, instead of 50.6 million, where it currently stands, and “[b]y 2040 the population would have reached 77.5 million — a whopping 24 million people more than is currently projected,” according to the study, GlobalPost notes (Conway-Smith, 1/23). “The survey is based on data sourced from the Actuarial Society of South Africa and the Institute for Futures Research,” SAPA/News 24 writes (1/23).
“Thirty years after AIDS made its deadly debut, a future without the disease is finally within reach,” a Boston Globe editorial states, adding, “But just as science is on the verge of winning the battle, financial resources and political will are flagging.” The editorial details reductions in HIV spending, a Congressional stipulation that U.S. funds cannot be spent on needle-exchange programs, and new science showing how HIV treatment can help people living with the disease live longer and reduce the risk of them spreading the virus.
Rwanda is expanding its medical male circumcision program this year, “as the country attempts to reach its goal of medically circumcising 50 percent of men by June 2013 as part of HIV prevention efforts,” PlusNews reports. “The free male circumcision program began in October 2011, and officials at the Ministry of Health say demand is growing,” according to the news service. However, with only 15 percent of men circumcised and a shortage of qualified health care workers, “the goal is unlikely to be met unless lower cadre health workers are involved in the campaign,” PlusNews writes.
During a webinar Thursday hosted by the Health Global Access Project, AVAC, and amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research), John Blandford, chief of CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS Health Economics, Systems and Integration Branch, presented findings showing “that scaling up antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in the developing world not only saves lives, but saves money too,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. According to the blog, “[Blandford] and his team of colleagues have found that cost savings from averted negative outcomes offset a major portion of the cost of treatment over time.” The blog quotes Blandford saying, “Based on [WHO] standards, ART should be considered highly cost-effective in almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa” (Mazzotta, 1/27).
Speaking on Saturday at the African Union Summit, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said huge advances in HIV treatment and prevention have been made over the past decade in Africa, “[b]ut these gains ‘are not sustainable,’ … because they are heavily dependent on foreign aid,” the Zimbabwean reports (1/30). “An estimated two-thirds of AIDS expenditures in Africa come from international funding sources, according to a new UNAIDS issues brief titled “AIDS dependency crisis: sourcing African solutions” (.pdf), Xinhua writes (1/29).
The International Herald Tribune’s “Express Tribune” reports on a two-day HIV/AIDS awareness workshop held in Pakistan this week. Speaking on Monday at the inaugural session of the event, titled “The State of HIV in Pakistan-2011,” Amir Maqbool, acting program manager of the National AIDS Control Program (NACP), stated that HIV/AIDS could not be controlled in the country without legislation and strong financial funding for prevention and control efforts, according to the newspaper. “In the aftermath of the devolution of the Ministry of Health, there is no mechanism to implement the legislation; something which previously fell under the purview of the Senate Standing Committee on Health,” the newspaper notes. The article highlights findings from multiple studies presented at the workshop (Wasif, 1/10).