UNAIDS’ new World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, “shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people,” according to a UNAIDS press release. Between 2001 and 2011, “a more than 50 percent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries — more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV,” the press release states, adding, “In addition to welcome results in HIV prevention, sub-Saharan Africa has reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 59 percent in the last two years alone.” According to the press release, “The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children,” and the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped because of increased access to antiretroviral treatment.
“‘Getting to Zero’ has been the slogan for World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) since 2011 and will remain so through until 2015, coinciding with the Millennium Development Goal target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and Adeeba Kamarulzaman, director of the Center of Excellence for Research in AIDS and dean of the Faculty of Medicine at University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, write in a New York Times opinion piece. “This offers a starting point for some more sanguine reflection on how, amid generalized talk of zeros, targets and goals, we can so easily lose sight of the extraordinary barriers that prevent them being reached in the first place,” they continue.
“In a bid to ensure the global fight against three of the world’s most devastating diseases remains efficient, the Board of the … Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria voted [Thursday] to begin an immediate transition” to a new grant-funding approach, the U.N. News Centre reports (11/15). The new funding model “is designed to be simpler, more flexible, and have greater impact in conquering the diseases,” according to Reuters. “The new system relies upon closer discussions with the recipient countries, along with other donor groups and experts, over the design of their disease-fighting programs”; “will focus on addressing the needs of the poorest countries with the highest number of infections”; and will allow flexible grant cycles “instead of falling in set time periods, so that they can be coordinated better with a country’s budgetary cycle, [the Board] said,” the news agency writes (Dawson, 11/15).
Speaking at the World Bank on Wednesday, “Irish rock star and anti-poverty activist Bono said thousands of people could die from AIDS if the United States cuts development assistance to reduce the budget deficit,” Reuters reports. Bono is in “Washington this week to urge politicians to spare U.S. development aid, as Congress is embroiled in negotiations aimed at preventing looming tax hikes and spending cuts known as the ‘fiscal cliff,'” the news agency writes. Citing “figures from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research,” Bono said “a shrinking U.S. budget for global health would leave more than 275,000 people without treatment for the autoimmune disease, leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths,” the news service writes (Yukhananov, 11/14). “We know there’s going to be cuts. … We understand that. But not cuts that cost lives,” Bono said, according to the Wall Street Journal (11/14). “Bono … also spoke to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday about the need for transparent data to fight corruption, and the deadline for eliminating poverty,” Reuters adds (11/14). “According to Bono, who peppered his serious speech with jokes, guaranteeing transparency would be the biggest ‘turbo-charger’ to the fight against extreme poverty,” the Manila Bulletin reports (11/15). Business Insider provides video footage of Bono’s discussion with Kim (Ro, 11/14).
The Wall Street Journal examines how “Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.” Noting “[o]ver the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of [malaria] and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece,” the newspaper writes, “The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge.” The Wall Street Journal examines the history of malaria’s return to the country and how the government is responding. “In addition to malaria, public health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV,” the newspaper notes (Granitsas, 11/14).
The U.S. government, and in particular U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, the head of PEPFAR, “have a unique opportunity to make [the program’s] money stretch farther and do more good, at very little cost to U.S. taxpayers: release the reams of data that PEPFAR and its contractors have already collected, at substantial cost — perhaps as much as $500 million each year,” Mead Over, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the Center’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “This would be a first step in what I hope will be [a] 2013 drive to improve the efficiency, the quality and the accountability of the U.S.’s most frequently praised foreign assistance program,” he states. Over goes on to describe the Data Working Group and its recommendations to PEPFAR (11/13).
Mary Beth Hastings, vice president of the Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE), writes in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog that despite “the pervasive myth that no one wants female condoms,” “[d]emand is increasing because female condoms provide men and women with something they want: more options when it comes to protecting themselves.” USAID officials “were surprised to hear evidence of an unmet demand for female condoms,” Hastings says, adding, “[W]hen presented with evidence to the contrary, USAID started talking with different institutions about meeting the demand.” She continues, “To its credit, the U.S. government is a global leader on female condoms. But there is still room for improvement.”
“Private philanthropists in the European Union and the U.S. spent some $644 million on global HIV/AIDS programs in 2011, a five percent increase from 2010, largely driven by funding from a small number of large donors, a new report [.pdf] has revealed,” IRIN reports. “In their annual report, two groups — the U.S.-based Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) and the European HIV/AIDS Funders Group (EFG) — reported that U.S. funders spent $491 million in 2011 while E.U. funders spent $170 million,” the news service writes (11/9). The report notes in a footnote that “$17.4 million was deducted from the combined total to avoid double-counting of grants that were given between U.S. and European-based funders and re-granted in 2011” (November 2012).
Recent successes in increasing the treatment and decreasing the incidence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria, along with other global health advances, “is thanks to the hard work and cooperation of people from many different walks of life: politicians of all stripes, business leaders, grassroots activists, clergy, health workers, government agencies and many more,” Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog. She says the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been “[c]entral” to these developments, and the “U.S. government has been a crucial leader in supporting international health and the Global Fund.” She adds, “Sustained commitment will ensure more lifesaving success.” Derrick also recognizes the work of doctors and businesses.
The BMJ examines the history of fraud allegations against the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the organization’s ongoing reform efforts. “Most observers agree that after a honeymoon first decade, the Global Fund had grown so big, and the economic climate and attitudes to diseases such as AIDS have changed so dramatically, that more rigor and efficiency was needed, fraud or no fraud,” BMJ writes. The Fund is expected to appoint a new director “and a new funding model, to be announced on November 15, [which] are supposed to get things back on track” (Arie, 11/12).