“More than 4,000 delegates — including government officials, health experts, community leaders, scientists, indigenous populations, youth and people living with HIV — convened from 28-31 August in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the 6th Latin American and Caribbean Forum on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” UNAIDS reports in a feature story. “[T]he forum provided an opportunity to take stock of progress, challenges and lessons learned in HIV responses across the region,” according to UNAIDS, which adds, “Participants engaged on a range of issues, from AIDS financing and new HIV prevention technologies to strategies for closing treatment access gaps.” The article expands on several of these issues (8/31).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog profiles Bernard Rivers, founder and executive director of Aidspan, a watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who is leaving his position after 10 years. “He will not be running Aidspan anymore, but plans to continue to research and write about Global Fund issues,” the blog states. In the blog, Rivers discusses his motivation behind founding Aidspan and his hopes for the future of the Global Fund (Barton, 8/30).
“Government assurances that the scaling back of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program in South Africa (SA) will be carefully managed to protect patients are welcome, but … [t]he reality is that the Department of Health is struggling to cope with severe medical staff shortages, financial resources that never seem to stretch far enough, inadequate infrastructure and maintenance programs, and administrative bottlenecks,” a Business Day editorial states. Though the reworking of PEPFAR funding will take place over five years “and does not entail the complete loss” of funding, “the shortfall will have to come from somewhere,” the editorial says, adding, “It will be tragic if, just as we are starting to see light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in SA, the gains of the past few years were to be reversed due to the loss of critical foreign funding and the government’s lack of capacity to plug the gap.”
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley spoke on Monday in Abuja at the inauguration of a Defense Reference Laboratory, Leadership reports, noting he said the laboratory, “which is the first of its kind in the sub-region,” was supported by U.S. funding. According to the newspaper, McCulley said the Reference Laboratory Program is part of U.S. assistance to Nigeria through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and Nigeria’s Ministry of Defense (NMOD) through the Walter Reed Program (WRP-N) and the Emergency Plan Implementation Committee (EPIC), which began in 2005 (8/30).
Brazil is expanding its national HIV/AIDS treatment program to include about 35,000 additional people, the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports. “Ronaldo Hallal of the [health] ministry’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Department said people with 500 or fewer CD4 cells per cubic millimeter will receive antiretroviral HIV treatment,” increasing the cutoff from 350 or less CD4 cells per cubic millimeter prior to the expansion, the news service writes. The Ministry of Health noted on its website that the expansion will require spending an additional 120 million reals, or $60,000, annually, according to the news service, which adds, “Hallal said Brazil already spends 1.2 billion reals ($600 million) each year in its free anti-AIDS program that is currently treating 223,000 people.” The AP notes Health Minister Alexandre Padilla said in a statement, “Brazil will be the only large country in the world to offer this kind of treatment that will reduce the risk of opportunistic infections like tuberculosis” (8/29).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog examines a recent study that found only slightly more than 44 percent of women in the Nyanza province of Kenya deliver their infants in a health care facility, with many women citing fear of stigma and discrimination as a reason for not attending clinics for prenatal care. Janet Turan of the University of Alabama led the study, published in the August edition of PLoS Medicine, as well as a literature review showing the impact of stigma and discrimination on efforts to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, according to the blog. The researchers “conclude that efforts to address HIV-related stigma in and out of health settings are needed, if efforts targeting maternal mortality and parent to child HIV transmission are to succeed,” the blog writes (Barton, 8/29).
“The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved 45 new two-year grants, from 37 countries, totaling $419.2 million, to fund essential prevention, treatment, and care services provided to the people affected by the three diseases,” according to a Global Fund press release. “Another 11 proposals worth a total of $91.2 million were sent back for revision, and are subject to a further independent technical review before they can be approved,” the press release adds, noting the grant approvals are part of the Transitional Funding Mechanism and “will bridge the financing of essential interventions until the next opportunity to apply for grants” (8/28). According to the U.N. News Centre, the Global Fund “has approved funding of $22.9 billion for more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries, and helped programs provide AIDS treatment for 3.6 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 9.3 million people, and 270 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria” (8/28).
Though many pregnant women are aware that treatment could save their lives and the lives of their infants if they test HIV-positive during prenatal care, a new study and literature review have found that a “[f]ear of being stigmatized as an AIDS patient is still a major barrier to good medical care for pregnant young women in many countries,” the New York Times reports. The study, published last week in PLoS Medicine, was “based on a survey of 1,777 women in rural Nyanza Province in Kenya,” according to the newspaper, which adds, “Only 44 percent of mothers in the province delivered in clinics, and the study found that a major obstacle was that they feared HIV tests.” The study’s author, Janet Turan, a professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in July also published “a review of multiple studies in many countries” that documented multiple accounts of “stigmatizing behavior,” the newspaper notes (McNeil, 8/27).
Ethiopian Government Working To Improve Access To Clean Toilets, Safe Water For People Living With HIV
PlusNews examines how a lack of access to clean toilets, safe drinking water, and “information on the prevention of common opportunistic infections means many Ethiopians living with HIV continue to contract easily preventable diseases.” The news service writes, “According to the [non-governmental organization (NGO)] Wateraid, people living with HIV are often unable to access community water sources or latrines because of stigma and discrimination.” Following calls from experts for the nation to address water and sanitation issues related to HIV care and treatment programs, the Ethiopian government “has laid out ambitious plans for water, sanitation and hygiene through its Universal Access Plan II, which seeks to reach 98.5 percent of its population with access to safe water and 100 percent with access to sanitation by 2015” and “is also drafting a document called ‘Guidelines to Integrate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene into HIV Programmes,’ which lays the groundwork for incorporating safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices into all HIV care services being delivered at all levels,” PlusNews reports (8/27).
Dominican Republic Establishes Commission To Examine Implications Of Including ART In Country Health Plan
“The Dominican Republic is one step closer to ensuring that all people living with HIV access treatment,” UNAIDS reports in an article on its webpage, adding, “The country’s National Social Security Council has established a commission to look into the technical, financial and operational implications of including antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the Basic Health Plan.” According to the article, “[t]he establishment of the commission comes after a financial feasibility study about covering people living with HIV under the country’s family health insurance,” and “[t]he newly-established commission — whose membership includes several national health system offices in addition to regional and global partners such as PAHO and UNAIDS — is set to complete its work during the last quarter of 2012” (8/23).