“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).
“In the last 20 years, the world has saved more than 50 million children’s lives and reduced maternal mortality by one-third,” “accomplishments [that] have been the result of good science, good management, bipartisan political support, the engagement of USAID and many other U.S. Government agencies, and the participation of faith-based organizations, civil society, and the private sector,” according to a summary of USAID’s “Global Health and Child Survival: Progress Report to Congress 2010-2011.” The summary states, “With prospects for ending preventable child and maternal deaths, creating an AIDS-free generation, and laying the foundations for universal health coverage, future generations will look back at this period as a turning point in the history of global health” (5/10).
International AIDS Conference To Highlight International, Domestic U.S. AIDS Policies, Politico Reports
When the International AIDS Conference convenes in Washington in July, the first time the U.S. will host the conference in more than 20 years, “it will signal that the U.S. has brought its HIV policies into better alignment with the principles it advocates abroad,” Politico reports, referencing the lifting of the “Helms rule” — which denied U.S. visas to people who are HIV positive — in 2009. “The policy was especially painful to advocates because U.S. scientific and financial investments are largely responsible for stemming the tide of the epidemic around the world,” the news service writes. “But the meeting will also highlight other ways that the U.S. has fallen short, advocates say,” the news service writes, noting that the U.S. epidemic is not slowing. Politico discusses the successes and criticisms of several domestic HIV/AIDS initiatives under the Obama administration (Feder, 5/13).
Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all have launched national campaigns urging men to undergo circumcision to help reduce their risk of contracting or transmitting HIV infection, but “all the countries are lagging far behind their targets,” Agence France-Presse reports in an article focusing on efforts in Botswana. A three-year-old campaign in Botswana, aimed at convincing 460,000 men to get circumcised, “has reached only seven percent of this figure,” the news agency notes, adding, “Now the government has enlisted the help of top musicians and launched a new series of advertisements touting ‘safe male circumcision’ as a lifeline.”
Study Shows Prevalence Of Drug-Resistant HIV Strains In Uganda Rising, Among Highest In Sub-Saharan Africa
“The prevalence of drug-resistant HIV strains in Uganda has risen from 8.6 percent to 12 percent in the last five years, one of the highest rates in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent study,” PlusNews reports. “The PharmAccess African Studies to Evaluate Resistance (PASER) monitoring cohort study report for 2008-2012” — “which was based on results from the capital, Kampala, the western town of Fort Portal, and the eastern town of Mbale” — “found that the prevalence of transmitted drug resistance among people who have never taken life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) medication was substantially higher in Uganda” than in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, the news service writes.
“[P]articipants at a symposium held last week by the U.K. Consortium on AIDS and International Development warned that [progress on HIV and tuberculosis (TB) vaccines] could be jeopardized by the recent downturn in global health funding,” BMJ reports. The journal summarizes comments made at the meeting by researchers and advocacy group representatives, who stressed that successful vaccines for HIV and TB would save millions in existing research investments and long-term treatment costs (Moszynski, 5/22).
In a two-part series in his Slate blog “The Reckoning,” author Michael Moran examines the “silo” effect of Western aid to improve health in Africa, writing in the first part, “Charities know that raising money for exotic disease eradication in the West is a good deal easier than, say, funding upgrades to substandard cardiac facilities. Yet the later is the real win in the long run.” He references an article published recently in Foreign Affairs by Thomas Bollyky, which Moran summarizes by saying, “Bollyky argues coordinated action to confront communicable crises like HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis must be part of the world’s approach to global health. But by ignoring far greater, non-communicable problems, he says, we doom Africans to low life expectancies and fail to create the impetus for reform and behavioral changes that could be transformational” (5/28).
In a guest blog post on the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks,” Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at amfAR: The Foundation for AIDS Research, and Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, summarize a Capitol Hill briefing “on the research agenda for beginning to end the AIDS epidemic” that took place Wednesday. “[R]esearchers, policymakers, and advocates joined our organizations and the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus” at the briefing to discuss “the research agenda needed to bring the epidemic to a close, with special focus on” combination interventions for treatment and prevention; “progress on vaccine and cure research”; and the importance of HIV testing, they write. Collins and Warren conclude, “We need to finance the response, make strategic choices about what to bring to scale (and what not to) and stop discriminating against high-risk populations. Whether you’re a researcher, policymaker or advocate, new scientific developments are how we end the epidemic” (5/24).
UNAIDS and PEPFAR recently brought together the ministers of health and representatives of the 22 countries with the most new HIV cases among children to discuss progress on the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive agreed to at the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on AIDS, according to a UNAIDS press release. Though “great strides have been made in reducing HIV infections among women of reproductive age and expanding access to antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women living with HIV, … progress is not being scaled up as quickly on meeting the family planning needs of women living with HIV, preventing maternal mortality and ensuring that all children living with HIV have access to antiretroviral therapy,” according to UNAIDS. “The meeting was the first annual face-to-face gathering of representatives from the 22 focus countries since the launch of the Global Plan,” the press release notes (5/23).