VOA News examines the South African government’s decision in September 2011 to stop providing a free six-month supply of infant formula to mothers with HIV and have “its health facilities … encourage the women to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives.” Though some criticized Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for implementing the policy, “doctors at a hospital in an isolated part of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province praised the minister’s action as brave and visionary and said it would ultimately result in many lives being saved,” the news agency writes. The article profiles the experience of doctors at Zithulele Hospital in Oliver Tambo District, which has followed the exclusive breastfeeding policy since 2006 and where one of every four mothers is infected with HIV; outlines why exclusive breastfeeding is preferable to mixed feeding; and discusses the challenges to implementing the policy nationwide (Taylor, 6/19).
USA Today features a Q&A on Truvada, an antiretroviral drug that a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel in May recommended be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. The newspaper includes comments from different experts on the drug, saying implementation and cost are two major hurdles to its use for PrEP. Carlos del Rio, chair of the Emory Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health, co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research, and a board member at HIVMA (the HIV Medicine Association), said that if the drug is approved for use as a prevention tool, “I don’t think, honestly, in the short term, this is going to have much impact in the U.S., much less globally. … It’s a tool, but at the current price of up to $14,000 a year per individual, it’s simply not possible to think this will have an immediate impact in the epidemic globally,” according to the newspaper. The FDA is expected to make a decision later this summer, USA Today notes (Manning, 6/25).
U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby “discussed lessons learned from the U.S. response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past decade at an event hosted by the Brookings Institute Monday morning,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “While calling recent scientific advances in HIV prevention ‘game changers’ that have offered hope of an AIDS-free generation, [Goosby said] that the successful fight against the epidemic relies on recognizing AIDS-specific efforts so far as a foundation for further health gains, on country ownership, and on continuing to build ‘the shared responsibility’ of a multi-donor response,” the blog adds.
UNAIDS and PEPFAR recently brought together the ministers of health and representatives of the 22 countries with the most new HIV cases among children to discuss progress on the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive agreed to at the 2011 U.N. High-Level Meeting on AIDS, according to a UNAIDS press release. Though “great strides have been made in reducing HIV infections among women of reproductive age and expanding access to antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women living with HIV, … progress is not being scaled up as quickly on meeting the family planning needs of women living with HIV, preventing maternal mortality and ensuring that all children living with HIV have access to antiretroviral therapy,” according to UNAIDS. “The meeting was the first annual face-to-face gathering of representatives from the 22 focus countries since the launch of the Global Plan,” the press release notes (5/23).
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the largest provider of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Burma, also known as Myanmar, are calling for the gap between the need for and access to ART in the country to be closed, the Guardian reports. Approximately 240,000 people live with HIV in Burma, and doctors say half are in need of “urgent” ART, but national data estimates less than 30,000 were receiving ART in 2010, the newspaper writes, adding, “In a country where nearly 33 percent of people live below the poverty line, thousands of Burmese are unlikely ever to be able to afford ART, which, according to [MSF], cost $30 a month.”
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria “expects to have an additional $1.6 billion to fund projects in 2012-2014, [the fund’s General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo] said on Wednesday, a turnaround from a funding freeze last year,” Reuters reports (Miles, 5/9). “The new funds are a result of ‘strategic decisions made by the Board, freeing up funds that can be invested in countries where there is the most pressing demand,’ a statement by the fund said,” according to PlusNews (5/10). “The money includes funds from new donors, from traditional donors who are advancing their payments or increasing contributions and from some donors, such as China, that have offered to support projects in their own country to free up cash for more pressing needs elsewhere, Jaramillo said,” Reuters notes (5/9). “This forecast is better than expected, and it comes from the fantastic response we are getting to our transformation,” Jaramillo said, adding, “But we need more to get the job done. Countries that implement our grants are saving more and more people, but demand for services is still enormous,” according to the statement (5/9).
Ahead of Mother’s Day on May 13, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, “Together we can go from 390,000 children becoming infected with HIV each year to zero,” and he highlights “three simple things we can all do to ensure babies everywhere can be born free from HIV.”
Estimated 740,000 Deaths In Africa Averted Between 2004-2008 In Association With PEPFAR, Study Shows
“The lives of more than 740,000 people in nine African countries were saved between 2004 and 2008 by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief [PEPFAR],” according to a study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Wednesday, HealthDay News reports (3/15). “The study is the first to show a decline in all-cause mortality related to the program,” a Stanford press release notes, adding, “To measure the impact of the program, [Eran Bendavid, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford,] and his colleagues analyzed health and survival information for more than 1.5 million adults in 27 African countries, including nine countries where PEPFAR has focused its efforts” (Richter, 5/10). According to the study, “an estimated total of 740,914 all-cause adult deaths were averted between 2004 and 2008 in association with PEPFAR,” and “[i]n comparison, PEPFAR was associated with an estimated 631,338 HIV-specific deaths averted during the same period,” a JAMA press release states, noting that “all-cause adult mortality declined more in African countries in which … PEPFAR operated more intensively” (5/15).
GlobalPost reports on the GBCHealth Conference, which took place in New York City on Monday and where “panelists at a session titled ‘AIDS@30’ were asked how they would fulfill U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call late last year for an ‘AIDS-free generation.'” According to the news service, “Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, said the key will likely be a combination HIV prevention strategy” that “includes expansion of treatment to help prevent new infections; major scale-up of male circumcision; and treating all HIV-positive pregnant women to end the transmission of HIV from mother to child.” GlobalPost adds, “Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, said the way to defeat AIDS had to include more financial contributions from developing countries.” GlobalPost quotes several other conference attendees (Donnelly, 5/15).
AIDS activists in Uganda are worried about a proposed reduction in the country’s health budget, as Parliament begins “a months-long budgeting process for the … next fiscal year,” VOA News reports. “AIDS activists have expressed concern that Uganda’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes a six percent cut in health funding to $307.5 million,” which “is less than 10 percent of the country’s overall budget,” the news service writes. Joshua Wamboga of The AIDS Support Organization said a lack of financial commitment from the government could undermine efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the country, VOA notes, adding, “Government officials said the cut to the health budget reflects construction projects in that sector that have been completed and no longer require funding.” According to VOA, “The budget is months away from being finalized and activists hope there is still time to increase funds” (Green, 5/15).