“African leaders meeting on the sidelines of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly called [Wednesday] for innovative solutions to accelerate the response to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and to advance health for people on the continent,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “At their meeting at U.N. Headquarters, the leaders discussed the African Union (A.U.) Roadmap, which outlines long-term sustainable strategies to finance and provide access to HIV treatment and prevention services and other health services in Africa as called for in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the news service writes, adding, “Leaders echoed the need for strong political leadership and enhanced country ownership and, as a first step, agreed to accelerate the implementation of the Roadmap, according to a news release issued by UNAIDS” (9/26).
“When we talk about HIV prevention, we tend to frame it as a medical challenge and of course it is one,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “To accelerate the progress in the AIDS response we must reduce transmission and people’s exposure to the virus,” but “ending AIDS is as much a social challenge as a clinical one,” he continues. “One of the clearest lessons of the past three decades is that illiteracy and poverty fuel the spread of HIV and that education can slow it,” he states, adding, “Education — not just sex education but literacy, numeracy, critical-thinking and global citizenship — is the social equivalent of a vaccine, and it’s already available for clinical use.”
“When President Obama made a landmark speech against modern slavery on Tuesday, many of us in the news media shrugged,” but women survivors of human trafficking “noticed,” Nicholas Kristof writes in his New York Times column. “[T]he world often scorns the victims and sees them as criminals: these girls are the lepers of the 21st century,” he says, adding, “So bravo to the president for giving a major speech on human trafficking and, crucially, for promising greater resources to fight pimps and support those who escape the streets. Until recently, the Obama White House hasn’t shown strong leadership on human trafficking, but this could be a breakthrough. The test will be whether Obama continues to press the issue.”
In this post in the Huffington Post Blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines the role of health efforts in the rebuilding of Burma, also known as Myanmar. “According to the World Health Organization, the ruling military leaders’ investment in health is only two percent of GDP, among the smallest health budgets in the world,” she writes, adding, “An estimated 240,000 people in the country are living with HIV/AIDS, and there remains a high risk of malaria, with incidence of drug-resistant malaria spreading.”
Researchers from South Africa and South Korea are developing a smartphone-based device and application able to “photograph and analyze blood samples in areas far from laboratories to diagnose HIV and even measure the health of [patients'] immune systems,” Agence France-Presse reports. The device, called Smartscope, is a small microscope that clips over a phone’s camera and holds a standard chip with a blood sample, the news service notes, adding the camera then photographs the sample and the application analyzes the photo to produce a CD4 cell count. “The team hopes that trials in clinics may start next year,” according to AFP (8/31).
“More than 4,000 delegates — including government officials, health experts, community leaders, scientists, indigenous populations, youth and people living with HIV — convened from 28-31 August in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the 6th Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” UNAIDS reports in a feature story. “[T]he forum provided an opportunity to take stock of progress, challenges and lessons learned in HIV responses across the region,” according to UNAIDS, which adds, “Participants engaged on a range of issues, from AIDS financing and new HIV prevention technologies to strategies for closing treatment access gaps.” The article expands on several of these issues (8/31).
“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).
Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Kate McQueston, a program coordinator at CGD, write in the center’s “Global Health Policy” blog that a reduction in AIDS funding to Ethiopia from PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria “might be warranted due to epidemiological trends and improved efficiency, or might cripple progress as health programs dependent on external donors are cut back,” but “with the current poor status of basic information on beneficiaries and costs, it’s difficult to judge whether these cuts are good or bad.” They outline the history of AIDS funding in Ethiopia, posit what future funding might encompass, and say additional information is needed from PEPFAR, the Global Fund, and the Ethiopian government in order to know the true impacts of reduced funding (9/11).
“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.”
Wednesday marked “the first-ever Global Female Condom Day, and women and men around the world are … speaking out for increased recognition of a prevention method that is too often overlooked,” Patricia Coffey, head of the Maternal, Neonatal, and Reproductive Health Technologies Group at PATH, writes in USAID’s “Impact Blog,” adding, “Female condoms offer women — and men — dual protection from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV” (9/12). “Global Female Condom Day sounds whimsical, but the organizers have a serious purpose,” blog editor Kathleen Donnelly writes in the PATH Blog. She continues, “They want to draw attention to tools that ‘have the potential to revolutionize safer sex for diverse populations around the world'” (9/12).