In this post in the Huffington Post Blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines the role of health efforts in the rebuilding of Burma, also known as Myanmar. “According to the World Health Organization, the ruling military leaders’ investment in health is only two percent of GDP, among the smallest health budgets in the world,” she writes, adding, “An estimated 240,000 people in the country are living with HIV/AIDS, and there remains a high risk of malaria, with incidence of drug-resistant malaria spreading.”
Wednesday marked “the first-ever Global Female Condom Day, and women and men around the world are … speaking out for increased recognition of a prevention method that is too often overlooked,” Patricia Coffey, head of the Maternal, Neonatal, and Reproductive Health Technologies Group at PATH, writes in USAID’s “Impact Blog,” adding, “Female condoms offer women — and men — dual protection from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV” (9/12). “Global Female Condom Day sounds whimsical, but the organizers have a serious purpose,” blog editor Kathleen Donnelly writes in the PATH Blog. She continues, “They want to draw attention to tools that ‘have the potential to revolutionize safer sex for diverse populations around the world'” (9/12).
Uganda Releases Strategy To Reduce HIV Infections; Activists Question Country's Ability To Meet Goals
“In response to rising HIV prevalence, Uganda’s government has announced a strategy to reduce new HIV infections by up to 30 percent by 2015, but activists have cast doubt on its ability to achieve this ambitious goal,” PlusNews reports. “In August, the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) released a revised National HIV Prevention Strategy aimed at ‘increasing the adoption of safer sexual behavior and reduction of risk-taking behavior, attaining critical coverage of effective HIV prevention service, creating a sustainable enabling environment that mitigates the underlying structural drivers of the epidemic, re-engaging leadership and energizing coordination of HIV prevention, and improving strategic information on HIV prevention,'” the news service writes. “The Ministry of Health also plans to improve the quality and coverage of HIV counseling and testing, increase condom use, fast-track the rollout of safe male circumcision to reach 4.2 million men by 2015, expand antiretroviral treatment as HIV prevention, and increase the coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services from 52 percent to 75 percent,” PlusNews notes.
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).