NPR’s “Shots” blog examines the “test and treat” approach to HIV care and prevention, which “relies on the fact that taking HIV drugs dramatically reduces a person’s risk of transmitting the virus to others,” and, “[a]s more and more people are put on medication, the epidemic theoretically should fizzle out.” The blog continues, “Test and treat sounds good on paper, but some doctors and policymakers have doubts about its feasibility on a large scale.”
In Foreign Policy’s “Passport” blog, Associate Editor Uri Friedman reflects on former President George W. Bush’s efforts against AIDS, highlighting PEPFAR, which he “established in 2003 and which now supports antiretroviral treatment for 4.5 million people around the world.” Friedman quotes former President Bill Clinton, who, speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, said, “I have to be grateful, and you should be too, that President George W. Bush supported PEPFAR. It saved the lives of millions of people in poor countries.” Friedman continues, “[W]hat’s particularly notable about the reference is that, during a convention season designed to draw sharp distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, the two parties have found common ground on at least one point: the success of Bush’s efforts to fight AIDS.”
PlusNews examines the recently approved grants under the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s Transitional Funding Mechanism (TFM), stating, “Last week, the Fund announced that 45 new grant applications, from countries such as Burundi, Malawi and Swaziland, have been approved under the TFM.” The news service notes, “Almost 25 percent of this combined total will go towards [tuberculosis (TB)], which represents a significant increase from the average 16 percent of funds allocated for TB since the Global Fund was created in 2002, according to a StopTB Partnership statement released in response” to the fund’s announcement. PlusNews notes, “Unlike regular grants, which can run for up to five years, those awarded under the TFM will be limited to two years, by which time the fund is expected to have launched its new funding model” (9/4).
“Kenya has launched an investigation after researchers claimed HIV-positive women were being routinely sterilized without their consent in government hospitals,” the Guardian reports. The African Gender and Media Initiative issued a report “based on interviews with 40 women, suggest[ing] the practice was widespread and ongoing,” according to the newspaper. “The report also includes examples of coercive tactics used by medical staff to obtain consent — for instance, threatening to withhold antiretroviral medication or baby milk if the woman did not agree to the procedure,” the newspaper writes. “‘These allegations are very serious and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board is going to investigate them before appropriate action is taken,’ Shariff Shahnaz, the director of public health, told the Daily Nation newspaper,” the Guardian reports (Mojtehedzadeh, 9/4).
“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).
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).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog profiles Bernard Rivers, founder and executive director of Aidspan, a watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who is leaving his position after 10 years. “He will not be running Aidspan anymore, but plans to continue to research and write about Global Fund issues,” the blog states. In the blog, Rivers discusses his motivation behind founding Aidspan and his hopes for the future of the Global Fund (Barton, 8/30).
“Government assurances that the scaling back of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program in South Africa (SA) will be carefully managed to protect patients are welcome, but … [t]he reality is that the Department of Health is struggling to cope with severe medical staff shortages, financial resources that never seem to stretch far enough, inadequate infrastructure and maintenance programs, and administrative bottlenecks,” a Business Day editorial states. Though the reworking of PEPFAR funding will take place over five years “and does not entail the complete loss” of funding, “the shortfall will have to come from somewhere,” the editorial says, adding, “It will be tragic if, just as we are starting to see light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in SA, the gains of the past few years were to be reversed due to the loss of critical foreign funding and the government’s lack of capacity to plug the gap.”
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley spoke on Monday in Abuja at the inauguration of a Defense Reference Laboratory, Leadership reports, noting he said the laboratory, “which is the first of its kind in the sub-region,” was supported by U.S. funding. According to the newspaper, McCulley said the Reference Laboratory Program is part of U.S. assistance to Nigeria through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and Nigeria’s Ministry of Defense (NMOD) through the Walter Reed Program (WRP-N) and the Emergency Plan Implementation Committee (EPIC), which began in 2005 (8/30).