“Afghanistan has begun work on a $30 million hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis [TB], a disease that health officials say kills more than 10,000 Afghans every year,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog reports. “The Japanese government is paying for the 80-bed center in the Afghan capital, which will also treat malaria and AIDS patients,” the news service writes, noting, “Japan is the second-largest donor to Afghanistan, after the United States.” VOA adds, “During Thursday’s groundbreaking in Kabul, Afghan Health Minister Suraya Dalil said Afghanistan ranks in the top 20 worldwide for the most TB patients,” and she noted the country has 2,000 centers nationwide that can diagnose and treat the disease (5/17).
House Appropriations Committee Releases Draft Report On FY13 State, Foreign Operations Spending Bill
The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill on Thursday, The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports (Pecquet, 5/17). On Wednesday, the committee released the State and Foreign Operations Draft Committee Report (.pdf), which provides additional information on funding through the appropriations bill for U.S. global health programs at USAID and the State Department, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Policy Tracker. “This funding comprises a significant portion of the Global Health Initiative budget (total funding for the GHI is not currently available as some funding provided through USAID, HHS, and DoD are not yet available),” the website writes. The House Appropriations State and Foreign Affairs subcommittee released the draft bill on May 8 and approved it on May 9, according to the website.
More Research Needed Into How Transgender Persons In Asia, Pacific Affected By HIV, Stigma, Report Says
A report released Thursday in Bangkok by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) says more research needs to be conducted to determine the extent to which transgender persons in Asia and the Pacific are affected by HIV, are socially ostracized, and lack fundamental rights, including access to basic health care, a UNDP press release reports. The report, released to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, is “a comprehensive review of material gathered from across the region over the past 12 years” and “emphasizes that inclusive research, designed and implemented in partnership with the transgender community, is critical to enable governments, community-based organizations and supporting organizations to enhance HIV and sexual health care services specific to the needs of transgender people, and foster action by governments to adopt more socially equitable policies and practices to protect their rights,” according to the press release (5/17).
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).
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).
The New York Times and the Financial Times examine concerns expressed by AIDS activists and members of an FDA panel that last week recommended Gilead Sciences’ antiretroviral drug Truvada be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. According to the New York Times, “Such a pill has long been a goal of research, something that might help stem a global epidemic that is still causing two million new worldwide cases each year, including 50,000 in the United States” (Grady, 5/14). The Financial Times says some have concerns over the real world efficacy of the drug; whether its approval would encourage reckless behavior, such as not using condoms; side effects that might require additional treatment; the development of drug-resistant HIV strains; and the cost of the drug.
NPR's 'All Things Considered' Examines How Greater Acceptance Of India's Gay Community Helps HIV Fight
NPR’s “Shots” blog includes an “All Things Considered” story that examines how “a 2009 benchmark ruling in Delhi’s High Court,” which “struck down a 148-year-old law known as Section 377, a holdover from British colonial rule that made homosexual acts illegal,” has led to a wider level of HIV outreach to Mumbai’s gay community. Vivek Anand, CEO of the Humsafar Trust, “which provides free HIV tests and other health services to Mumbai’s gay community,” said the ruling has helped health workers gain a better understanding of HIV prevalence among India’s gay population, the blog notes.
Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all have launched national campaigns urging men to undergo circumcision to help reduce their risk of contracting or transmitting HIV infection, but “all the countries are lagging far behind their targets,” Agence France-Presse reports in an article focusing on efforts in Botswana. A three-year-old campaign in Botswana, aimed at convincing 460,000 men to get circumcised, “has reached only seven percent of this figure,” the news agency notes, adding, “Now the government has enlisted the help of top musicians and launched a new series of advertisements touting ‘safe male circumcision’ as a lifeline.”
The PBS NewsHour on Friday featured an interview of Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), by Senior Correspondent Ray Suarez, in which they discussed an FDA panel’s recommendation that the antiretroviral Truvada be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus. If approved, Truvada “can be potentially very effective” as a prevention modality among specific populations at high risk of contracting HIV, Fauci said, according to the interview. Fauci also discussed the medication’s cost and concerns about adherence to the drug regimen, PBS notes (Suarez, 5/11).