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5 Reasons Global Health Programs Should ‘Be Spared The Chopping Block’

“President Obama and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney have both prioritized deficit reduction, which, of course, is a worthy goal,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), chair of the non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands, writes in an opinion piece in The Week. “[M]any surveys put global health at the top of the list of things to slash. That’s a mistake,” he continues and lists five reasons why global health programs “ought to be spared the chopping block.”

U.N. SG Ban Speaks About Need For Reproductive Health Care For Young People, Releases UNFPA Report

In remarks to the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, which on Monday opened a week-long session in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “stressed the need to provide reproductive health care for young people, as well as give them access to the necessary information and the means to protect themselves from sexual abuse and violence,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Ban “underlined the importance of combating HIV/AIDS among youth, lowering the rates of teenage pregnancies, and protecting children from early marriage” the news service writes (4/23). “In order to empower the youth of the world, said Ban, the international community must ensure that they have jobs and resources, including reproductive health care,” Xinhua/Mysinchew.com notes (4/23).

Kenyan Government Must Review Law On Counterfeit Drugs, High Court Rules

“Kenya’s High Court ruled on Friday that lawmakers must review legislation that could threaten the import of generic drugs, allowing Kenyans to continue accessing affordable medicine,” Reuters reports. In 2009, three people living with HIV filed a lawsuit arguing that the definition of counterfeit drugs in Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Bill of 2008 was too broad and “unconstitutional because it threatened access to life-saving generic medicine by confusing generic and fake medicine,” the news agency notes (4/20).

Strategic Innovations Will Help Prevent HIV Transmission From Mothers To Children, High-Level Meeting Attendees State

At a High-Level Meeting on Innovation for Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (EMTCT) on Friday in Washington, D.C., “HIV experts, business leaders, aid agencies and ambassadors of 22 priority countries — home to 90 percent of new HIV infections among children –” agreed that strategic innovations are necessary to curb the spread of the virus from women to their children, PANA/Afrique en Linge reports. “The priority countries are Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” the news service notes.

UNAIDS Welcomes New WHO Guidelines For HIV Testing, Counseling, ART For Couples

UNAIDS on Thursday “called on all countries to implement new [WHO] guidelines that encourage couples to go together for HIV testing to ascertain their status” and recommend offering antiretroviral therapy (ART) to people living with HIV who have a partner without HIV, “even when they do not require it for their own health,” the U.N. News Centre reports. UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, “I am excited that with the rollout of these new guidelines, millions of men and women have one additional option to stop new HIV infections. … This development begins a new era of HIV prevention dialogue and hope among couples” (4/19). “Earlier treatment, of course, will need more money for more drugs for more people,” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley writes in her Global Health Blog, adding, “Campaigners will be looking anxiously to the reviving fortunes of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as the prospects for more money for PEPFAR” (4/19).

Single Biennial HIV Prevention Conference Planned

This year’s International Microbicides Conference, held this week in Sydney, “will be the last of its kind” because “[f]rom 2014 onwards, it is planned, a single biennial conference on all aspects of HIV prevention will be held,” according to an aidsmap news story. In a closing plenary session, representatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the NIH Office of AIDS Research, the two largest funders of HIV prevention research, “said they were proposing an ‘integrative prevention meeting’ in recognition of the fact that no one HIV prevention method is likely to end the epidemic and that different methods can be synergistic,” the news service writes (Cairns, 4/18).

To Achieve AIDS-Free Generation, Needs Of Youth Living With HIV Must Be Addressed In Transition Services

In this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Heather Bergmann of John Snow Inc., who is the technical officer for USAID’s AIDSTAR-One project, reports on the need to include youth in transition services for adolescents living with HIV. She writes, “Without proper support, many young people can become overwhelmed, a response that can challenge adherence to AIDS medicines and lead to negative health consequences. This is why it’s imperative to create health services that are appropriate and accessible for youth living with HIV.” She adds, “Achieving the goal set out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year of reducing new HIV infections in children and achieving an AIDS-free generation requires addressing the needs of youth with services that are delivered in ways and in places that are accessible, welcoming, and supportive” (4/19).

Need To Invest In New HIV Prevention Methods Remains ‘Urgent,’ International Microbicides Conference Hears

“Although the research for new HIV prevention technologies has indeed made some progress, … a formidable way lies ahead to find enough money to finish the research and to make ‘from discovery to delivery’ a reality for those in need of protecting themselves from HIV,” New Zealand’s Scoop reports. “This issue of health financing of new HIV prevention technologies was in spotlight at the closing day plenary of the International Microbicides Conference (M2012) in Sydney, Australia,” the news service adds.

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Tells GlobalPost State Department Reviewing Nearly $1.5B In Unused PEPFAR Funding

Prompted by an inquiry from GlobalPost, U.S. officials have said the Obama administration called for a $550 million reduction — an 11 percent cut — for its global AIDS program in its FY 2013 budget request because the “government didn’t need more money because there has been nearly $1.5 billion stuck in the pipeline for 18 months or more,” GlobalPost reports. According to the news service, the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, headed by Ambassador Eric Goosby, “said this week it will immediately start a consultation period with Congress, its partners across the U.S. government and AIDS advocates to address a key question: What should they do with $1.46 billion?” GlobalPost reports that Goosby “explained that $1.46 billion designated to fight AIDS hasn’t been used because of inefficient bureaucracies; major reductions in the cost of AIDS treatment; delays due to long negotiations on realigning programs with recipient country priorities; and a slowdown in a few countries because the AIDS problem was much smaller than originally estimated” (Donnelly, 4/17).

WHO Releases Guidance On Couples Testing, Counseling, Including ART For Discordant Couples

The WHO on Wednesday released its new 54-page “Guidance on couples HIV testing and counselling, including antiretroviral therapy (ART) for treatment and prevention in serodiscordant couples: Recommendations for a public health approach,” according to the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. “Intended for national policymakers and relevant health program managers in low- and middle-income countries with generalized HIV epidemics, the guidelines were set to be released at the International AIDS Conference in Rome last July, but delayed in order to consider results from two clinical trials looking at ART use as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) that showed a strong prevention benefit, as well as the relevance of couples counseling and testing among pairs who are men who have sex with men (MSM) and/or inject drugs,” the blog notes. The guidance “also touches on recent evidence that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with some antiretrovirals taken in discordant couples can help to prevent sexual acquisition of HIV, and notes that the WHO is reviewing this data and hopes to have a ‘rapid advice’ document on PrEP available sometime this year to help guide programs in discordant couples and in MSM communities,” the blog states (Mazzotta, 4/18).