“The potential for antiretroviral medicine to reduce transmission of HIV and tuberculosis has been demonstrated, but the challenges of using treatment to prevent infection will need to be tackled country by country, and with focus on people for whom it will have the biggest impact, the latest bulletin on HIV treatment from the World Health Organization says,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “WHO’s June 2012 Antiretroviral Treatment as Prevention (TasP) of HIV and TB Programmatic Update is the latest of a series of documents the organization says will lead to a completed set of guidelines on treatment and prevention in July 2013,” the blog reports, noting, “The organization also plans to release new recommendations in time for the July International AIDS Conference, addressing the preventative use of antiretroviral medicine by people who are uninfected but potentially exposed to HIV, including those involved in commercial sex work, in ongoing relationships with infected partners, and men who have sex with men” (6/18).
During a live webcast discussing recent changes at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, “[p]anelists discussed the fund’s new strategy and what this strategy means for the global fight against these three diseases,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president and director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted the Global Fund’s new general manager, Gabriel Jaramillo, had moved quickly in focusing on restructuring and realigning the fund, according to the blog. Todd Summers, independent consultant and chair of the Strategy, Investment & Impact Committee at the Global Fund, said, “Now we see lots of opportunity to really make a big difference and change forever the trajectory” of the epidemics, “Global Pulse” notes.
“This week, at the Pacific Health Summit in London, the final large-scale trial was officially launched of a vaginal ring which women can wear and forget about — at least for a month at a time — while it releases an HIV virus-killing drug called dapivirine,” the Guardian reports. “If successful, it could also be combined with hormonal contraception,” the newspaper notes. The phase III clinical trial, “launched by the International Partnership for Microbicides, is already recruiting women in South Africa, Rwanda and Malawi” and “will involve 1,650 women — enough to prove definitively whether it works,” according to the newspaper (Boseley, 6/13).
“More than 100 million condoms will be distributed annually to sex workers, men who have sex with men, and other groups vulnerable to HIV as part of a new five-year program to be run by the Ethiopian government and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),” PlusNews reports. “Dubbed MULU, the Amharic word for comprehensive, the $70 million program — implemented by the NGOs Population Services International and World Learning — will also target day laborers in the booming construction industry, migrant workers and their partners,” the news service notes.
“Ten years ago today President Bush stepped into the Rose Garden to announce a $500 million program to stop the transmission of HIV passed from mothers to children during birth,” an announcement that “led the way to PEPFAR,” which Bush announced in his 2003 State of the Union address, John Donnelly, correspondent for GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, writes in this commentary in the blog. “In the years since, PEPFAR has been credited for saving millions of lives, most of them in Africa,” he continues, adding, “For anyone who cares about the global AIDS fight, today should be a day to celebrate the saving of millions of lives in the developing world.”
In this NDTV opinion piece, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on his recent trip to India, writing, “During my recent visit, I had a chance to see the latest progress on things that matter a lot to us: on eradicating polio and curtailing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, for example.” He continues, “And I saw how India is emerging as a model and increasingly a catalyst for improvement in other developing countries,” adding, “The current situation in India is quite hopeful.”
Family Planning Summit Offers Opportunity To Integrate Reproductive Services With HIV, Other Health Initiatives
Noting that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. government will co-host an international family planning summit in London in July, Gavin Yamey of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco; Craig Cohen, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at the University of California; and Elizabeth Bukusi, chief research officer and deputy director of research and training at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, write in a BMJ commentary, “More than 120 million women worldwide aged 15-49 years have an unmet need for family planning, which is due a renaissance after years of neglect.”
VOA News examines the South African government’s decision in September 2011 to stop providing a free six-month supply of infant formula to mothers with HIV and have “its health facilities … encourage the women to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives.” Though some criticized Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for implementing the policy, “doctors at a hospital in an isolated part of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province praised the minister’s action as brave and visionary and said it would ultimately result in many lives being saved,” the news agency writes. The article profiles the experience of doctors at Zithulele Hospital in Oliver Tambo District, which has followed the exclusive breastfeeding policy since 2006 and where one of every four mothers is infected with HIV; outlines why exclusive breastfeeding is preferable to mixed feeding; and discusses the challenges to implementing the policy nationwide (Taylor, 6/19).
USA Today features a Q&A on Truvada, an antiretroviral drug that a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel in May recommended be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. The newspaper includes comments from different experts on the drug, saying implementation and cost are two major hurdles to its use for PrEP. Carlos del Rio, chair of the Emory Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health, co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research, and a board member at HIVMA (the HIV Medicine Association), said that if the drug is approved for use as a prevention tool, “I don’t think, honestly, in the short term, this is going to have much impact in the U.S., much less globally. … It’s a tool, but at the current price of up to $14,000 a year per individual, it’s simply not possible to think this will have an immediate impact in the epidemic globally,” according to the newspaper. The FDA is expected to make a decision later this summer, USA Today notes (Manning, 6/25).
U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby “discussed lessons learned from the U.S. response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past decade at an event hosted by the Brookings Institute Monday morning,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “While calling recent scientific advances in HIV prevention ‘game changers’ that have offered hope of an AIDS-free generation, [Goosby said] that the successful fight against the epidemic relies on recognizing AIDS-specific efforts so far as a foundation for further health gains, on country ownership, and on continuing to build ‘the shared responsibility’ of a multi-donor response,” the blog adds.