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).
“A paper published in Nature [on Monday] sheds light on how a vaccine can turn the immune system against [HIV] and so offer protection from infection,” Nature News reports, noting “[t]he results are also being presented at the AIDS Vaccine 2012 conference in Boston, Massachusetts, this week” (Callaway, 9/10). Previous results from a trial called RV144 showed that two vaccines, Sanofi’s Alvac and VaxGen’s Aidsvax, reduced the risk of HIV infection by 31 percent over three years when used together, compared with people who received a placebo, according to Bloomberg (Bennett, 9/10). Last year, researchers showed “that those who responded to the vaccine and fended off HIV tended to produce antibodies against a specific part of the virus’s protein shell called the V1/V2 loop,” Nature News writes, adding, “The study published [Monday] goes a stage further, showing that the people who were vaccinated yet still contracted HIV had been infected by viruses that had mutations in the V2 portion.”
Devex News Analysis Examines Democratic, Republican Party Platforms On Foreign Policy, Including Global Health
A Devex news analysis examines the Democratic and Republican platform positions on foreign policy following the party conventions, writing, “Even as pocketbook concerns continue to overshadow foreign policy issues on the campaign trail, in both Charlotte and Tampa, top-billed speakers made the case for the U.S. foreign aid program.” The article examines the core principles of each platform, notes that neither platform offers specifics on foreign aid spending, and discusses the platforms’ stances on certain foreign policy issues, including global health, food security, climate change, and gay rights.
The Economist reports on a demonstration by about 300 people living with HIV and activists outside the headquarters of China’s Henan provincial government in Zhengzhou on August 27. “Many of the … participants were infected in government-backed blood-selling schemes in the 1990s,” the magazine writes, adding, “Tens of thousands contracted HIV this way. The government has never admitted responsibility.” According to the Economist, “As the Communist Party prepares for an imminent leadership change it is more than usually anxious to keep the AIDS scandal quiet.”
VOA News examines AIDS among high-risk groups in Burma, also known as Myanmar. “Burma’s AIDS epidemic mostly affects marginalized groups, such as the gay community,” the news service writes, adding, “About one percent of Burma’s population is HIV-positive,” but “[a]mong high-risk groups, such as men who have sex with men, health workers estimate as many as 11 percent have HIV.” The news service notes, “While Burma’s National AIDS Plan has helped stem new infections, it offers almost no help for marginalized groups already living with HIV.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Thursday hosted a panel discussion focusing on the policy implications of findings published by the Lancet in a special series on HIV/AIDS and men who have sex with men (MSM), the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Barton, 9/7). Chris Beyrer, a professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a contributor to the Lancet series, explained two factors are affecting the expansion of the HIV epidemic among MSM worldwide, according to Inter Press Service. First, HIV “is far more efficiently transmitted through the gut, hence leading to a far higher transmission probability in anal sex, for either a man or a woman — around 18 times more likely than through vaginal transmission,” the news service writes. Second, “because gay men can switch sexual roles in a way that is impossible among heterosexual couples — acting as both the acquisition and transmission partner — the efficiency of transmission among MSM networks appears to be far higher than previously understood,” IPS adds, noting, “These two factors, the new research suggests, account for a full 98 percent of the difference between HIV epidemics among MSM and heterosexual populations.”
PSI’s “Global Health Impact” blog features a video interview by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in which “[f]ormer UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot discusses with CSIS Senior Vice President and Director of the Global Health Policy Center J. Stephen Morrison the lessons he has learned in his years fighting AIDS.” In the video interview, Piot “explain[s] the reason for making AIDS a political issue and how it was enacted,” the blog states, adding he “tells how he stressed an evidence-based approach to finding AIDS solutions from the start, but it became apparent that it was not the only answer” (9/7).
Reuters Examines Challenges To Implementing 'Treatment As Prevention,' Other HIV Prevention Strategies In Current Economic Climate
In an “Insight” feature article, Reuters examines how new information on the prevention benefits of HIV treatment and other strategies, such as male circumcision, “could finally break the back of the AIDS epidemic.” But, “[w]ith some recession-strapped donor countries already struggling to meet their current commitments for treatment and prevention programs, AIDS activists worry that money, and not science, could hold up progress,” the news agency states. “‘The benefits of early detection and treatment have never been more clear, but countries have never been more challenged to provide needed resources,’ Kaiser Family Foundation [President and CEO] Drew Altman said in a statement,” the news service writes. Reuters highlights the results of several studies, discusses the challenges of “treatment as prevention,” and looks at the costs associated with implementing that and other strategies. “One hesitation is that the drugs work so well that people who take them can live basically a normal life, which means countries are on the hook for a lifetime of treatment,” the news service writes, adding, “The challenge is trying to sell the prevention aspect of treatment as cost-effective.” Reuters notes, “HIV/AIDS experts will test these efforts — along with less costly approaches, such as counseling, condom use and circumcision — in as many as 50 studies globally to see how well they work in real-world settings” (Steenhuysen, 9/6).
“With a completed trial in Thailand that offered evidence a vaccine could be developed to protect people from HIV, emerging science identifying antibodies against HIV, and a current trial testing a novel vaccine combination against the virus potentially producing more information in the next year, this is an exciting time to hold a conference, organizers of AIDS Vaccine 2012 say,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “AIDS Vaccine 2012, which begins this Sunday and runs through Wednesday in Boston, will bring together about 1,000 participants, 120 scientists and scholars, discussion of 440 research studies, and speakers that, along with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, will include researchers known for work in HIV treatment as prevention of transmission, pre-exposure antiretroviral treatment as prevention (PrEP — or pre-exposure prophylaxis), and topical microbicides,” the blog notes (Barton, 9/6).
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.”