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WHO Publishes ‘Programmatic Update’ On Use Of ARVs To Treat Pregnant Women, Prevent PMTCT

The WHO “recently published a ‘Programmatic Update’ [.pdf] on the use of antiretrovirals (ARVs) to treat pregnant women and prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT),” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “According to the executive summary, the WHO has started a comprehensive revision of all ARV guidelines, to include ARVs for pregnant women, which it plans to release in early 2013,” the blog notes (Mazzotta, 4/9).

Participation Of Big Pharma Companies Critical To Success Of Drug Patent Pools

In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, David de Ferranti, president of the Results for Development Institute, and Robert Hecht, managing director at the Institute, examine whether patent pools could help increase access to AIDS drugs among the world’s poor, writing, “AIDS program managers and advocates must pursue all measures that can keep the cost of treatment low and affordable. In addition to the actions that are already being taken — like having African governments and donors buy AIDS drugs in bulk from suppliers in order to obtain better prices — could a ‘patent pool’ for new drugs help to make AIDS treatment more accessible?”

Analysis Examines Potential Global Health Impact Of Obama Administration’s FY13 Budget Request

A new analysis from amfAR (.doc), The Foundation for AIDS Research, “estimates potential human impacts of funding changes [in global health programs] proposed in the President’s fiscal year 2013 budget request when compared to current operating budget levels (fiscal year 2012).” President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request includes a decrease in funding for PEPFAR and an increase in funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to the analysis, which concludes, “Taken together, proposed changes in funding for the Global Fund and PEPFAR could lead to significant reductions in lifesaving AIDS treatment delivery, services to orphans and other vulnerable children, prevention of vertical HIV transmission (from mother-to-child) services, and HIV testing services that could otherwise have been delivered with flat funding for PEPFAR” (April 2012).

Government Of Sweden Announces Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy For HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health

The government of Sweden on Monday announced “a regional strategy for regional efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and address sexual and reproductive health” in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a press release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. “The strategy also contains guidelines detailing how Sweden will contribute to improving sexual and reproductive health and efforts to improve human rights for homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people” in the region, the press release states. The Swedish government is allocating SEK 700 million ($104 million) for 2012 to 2013 toward the strategy, according to the press release (4/2).

Advocates For Youth Report Examines Youth Policies Within PEPFAR

A new report from Advocates for Youth “analyzes youth policies within the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), including its legislative authority, most recent five-year strategy, relevant guidance documents, and all 21 currently available PEPFAR country Partnership Frameworks” and includes “a set of recommendations for the U.S. Congress, [Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC)], and Partner Country governments, to design and implement the bold policy needed to support youth sexual and reproductive health and rights, including promotion of comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly, integrated, HIV and family planning services,” Advocates for Youth Executive Vice President Debra Hauser writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. She concludes, “In the end, it is young people who hold the key to ending this epidemic. That’s why they should be at the center, not the periphery, of our programs and policies” (4/3).

Exclusive Breastfeeding Policy Implemented In South Africa Amidst Criticism

On Sunday, South Africa’s nine provinces began promoting the Tshwane Declaration, which “states unequivocal support for [exclusive breastfeeding (EBF)] for all infants up to six months, including HIV-exposed infants, who should receive antiretrovirals (ARVs) to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), as recommended in the 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines,” Inter Press Service reports. “But despite the clarity of the policy and its supporting data, vocal critics, including respected individuals from leading medical and academic institutions, have decried the choice,” the news service writes.

Funding Shortfalls Could Hinder Implementation Of Treatment As Prevention Strategies, Al Jazeera Reports

Al Jazeera examines the administration of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) worldwide, focusing on treatment as prevention (TasP), but says current funding levels are insufficient to implement the strategy. The HPTN 052 study showed that HIV-positive people who take ART could reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their HIV-negative partners by 96 percent, according to the news agency. “This research is considered a game changer,” Al Jazeera writes, noting, “2012 may not be the year the international community eliminates HIV, but health experts say it could still be the year where the tide is turned.” The article includes comments from several HIV/AIDS experts (Dalal, 3/31).

PRI’s ‘The World’ Examines Role Of Churches In Fight Against HIV In Swaziland

PRI’s “The World” examines the role of churches in the fight against HIV in Swaziland. The news service highlights several church-run HIV programs, writing, “Churches have long played an important role in caring for the sick, but in terms of HIV prevention they’ve been at odds with the public health community. It has often come down to one issue: until recently, Swazi church leaders publicly rejected the use of condoms by their congregants. But now you hear many comments that suggest a change in thinking.”

Report Examines Political History Of International AIDS Conferences

In this post in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Katherine Bliss, deputy director and senior fellow at the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, discusses a report — titled, “The International AIDS Conference Returns to the United States” — that “examines the political history of the international AIDS conferences from 1985 to the present.” She writes, “The report finds that the most significant conferences from participants’ point of view have featured either major scientific breakthroughs, such as the 1996 Vancouver meeting, or substantial sociopolitical breakthroughs, as in Durban in 2000, when unprecedented civil society engagement helped generate momentum for the development of an international consensus to institute and scale up treatment for HIV-infected populations in resource-limited settings” (3/29).

Health Workers Feeling Effects Of Staff, Supply Shortages At Clinics In Southwestern Uganda

Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region’s] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).