In this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Judit Rius Sanjuan, a lawyer from Barcelona, Spain, and the U.S. manager of the Access Campaign at Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade agreement that currently involves 11 countries but could expand to include other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, “threatens to set a dangerous precedent with damaging implications for developing countries where MSF works, and beyond.” “Negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the agreement outline U.S. aggressive intellectual property (IP) demands that that could severely restrict access to affordable, life-saving medicines for millions of people,” she writes, concluding, “At this pivotal moment in the fight against AIDS, when the scientific, medical and policy tools needed to reverse the epidemic are finally at hand, … the U.S. government’s demands in the TPP will threaten so much of what has been achieved so far, and will make the vision of an AIDS-free generation impossible, or at least much more expensive” (8/7).
“Malawi on Monday launched a week-long campaign to test 250,000 people for HIV in what health authorities called a crucial intervention in a country ravaged by AIDS,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The week would give Malawians ‘a chance to access antiretroviral therapy if found HIV positive,’ said Deputy Health Minister Halima Daudi at the launch,” the news service writes, noting, “People will take tests in 810 sites in the southern African nation’s 28 districts.” Approximately 10 percent of Malawi’s 14 million residents are living with HIV, according to AFP (8/6).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday visited officials in South Africa and discussed the response to HIV/AIDS, the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. Speaking with Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane “in the second cabinet-level strategic dialogue between the two nations,” Clinton said “that global efforts to stop the virus ‘have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,'” the news service writes. “In South Africa, 5.7 million people — 17.8 percent of the population — have tested positive for HIV,” and PEPFAR “has spent $3.2 billion on antiretroviral drugs and HIV prevention programs in [the country] since 2004,” according to the AP.
“For nearly two years, not a single child with HIV has been born at the public hospital in the Cite-Verte district of Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon,” Inter Press Service reports, adding, “Emilien Fouda, the hospital’s director, says this proud record is the result of combined effort by his staff and community support groups.” The news service discusses efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission at the hospital, highlighting a program run by a community group called the No Limit for Women Project (NOLFOWOP). “‘The [program] includes awareness-raising, voluntary — and confidential — screening for HIV, testing for other sexually transmitted infections, and birthing practices that minimize the risk of HIV transmission,’ Fouda told IPS,” the news service writes. However, IPS notes, “Community support groups like NOLFOWOP are only present at some of the country’s hospitals, and not all public health centers systematically test women giving birth for HIV” (Nzouankeu, 8/3).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “expressed concern” over Uganda’s increasing number of HIV infections on a visit to the country last week, part of an 11-day trip to eight African nations, Uganda’s New Vision reports (Mukasa, 8/4). According to the Observer, Clinton “said while America recognizes the strides Uganda made in the 1990s when HIV prevalence dropped from 20 percent to seven percent, prevalence is now rising.” PEPFAR is the largest donor for HIV programs in the country, the newspaper notes, adding that “[t]he U.S. government recently committed $25 million to help Uganda eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and … [m]ore than 300,000 Ugandans are receiving treatment through PEPFAR” (Mwesigye, 8/5). “The reversal is particularly disappointing to health experts given the time and attention that have been focused on AIDS here, and the billions of dollars spent,” the New York Times writes (Kron, 8/2). “I am hoping that we can work together to make prevention the focus again. We are going to review our strategy because we want to emphasize what will work,” Clinton said, according to the Observer (8/5).
Science looks back at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), which ended last week in Washington, D.C., writing, “The battle against HIV is having more success than ever. … But several presentations made clear that a gulf separates aspirations from reality when it comes to ‘ending AIDS,’ which [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and many other prominent speakers at the conference emphasized was now possible.” Though more people are on antiretrovirals (ARVs) now than ever, low- and middle-income countries are spending more on HIV/AIDS, and “attempts to find a cure — long viewed as a fantasy — now lead the scientific agenda,” most “of the 34 million HIV-infected people in the world do not take ARVs, many receiving treatment have trouble staying on the medication, … new infection rates continue to climb in key populations,” “[n]o AIDS vaccine is on the horizon,” and “funding shortfalls loom for global programs,” Science writes, quoting several speakers at the conference and providing more detail on the successes and challenges in the response against HIV/AIDS (Cohen, 8/3).
Gilead Sciences Signs Deals With 3 Indian Pharmaceutical Companies To Promote Low-Cost HIV Drugs In Developing Countries
Gilead Sciences Inc. announced Thursday that it plans to partner with Mylan Inc., Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. and Strides Arcolab Ltd. “to promote access to high-quality, low-cost generic versions of Gilead’s HIV medicine emtricitabine in developing countries,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Stevenson, 8/2). Gilead signed deals with the three Indian companies “to drive sales and reduce manufacturing costs of low-cost generic versions of its HIV drug emtricitabine in developing countries,” Reuters reports, noting that under the deals, Gilead “will provide technology and funding to help reduce manufacturing costs of the drug, the companies said” (Kuber, 8/2).
Devex reports on a panel discussion held in Washington, D.C. Wednesday during which experts “looked back at the main surprises of the just-concluded [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)], and offered predictions on what the 2014 follow-up [in Melbourne, Australia] will focus on.” The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Kaiser Family Foundation convened the panel, which discussed, among other things, the so-called “cure agenda” and how it might feature in Melbourne, according to Devex. Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, which organizes the biannual event, noted that AIDS 2014 might place more focus on human rights and governance issues, according to the news service, which adds Greg Millet, senior policy adviser in the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, pointed out that HIV prevalence among men is higher in countries that criminalize homosexuality. “Holding the conference in Australia should increase participation by Asian countries, said J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president and director of the Global Health Policy Center” at CSIS, Devex writes (Brookland, 8/2). Jennifer Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and David Brown, staff writer at the Washington Post, also participated as panelists, according to the CSIS event page (8/3).
In this post in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron, responds to questions about Chevron’s presence at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., last week, writing that such questions “give me an opportunity to talk about the critical role everyone plays in the global fight against this epidemic, including Chevron, as well as the ways collaborative partnerships will lead to the elimination of AIDS.” She highlights the company’s HIV prevention efforts, including a pledge last year of $20 million to the U.N.’s mission to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015, and continues, “Individuals, non-profit organizations, medical practitioners, representatives of governments, and companies from the private sector joined together in Washington, D.C., with the same vision: to create an HIV-free generation and eliminate AIDS around the world” (8/1).
The XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) that took place last week in Washington, D.C., “ignited momentum to shift from ‘fighting AIDS’ to ‘ending AIDS,'” Mohga Kamal-Yanni, senior health adviser at Oxfam International, and Urvarshi Rajcoomer, policy and advocacy adviser at Oxfam in South Africa, write in a Mail & Guardian opinion piece. “Oxfam believes investing in health systems such as infrastructure and health worker, drug supply chain and health information systems, is a critical prerequisite to ending AIDS,” they write. However, “to make this a reality,” pharmaceutical companies, donor governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank “must now do their part,” they continue.