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AIDS Advocacy Groups Ask Obama To Reconsider FY13 Budget Request For PEPFAR

“Nine global HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations sent a letter [.pdf] to President Obama Thursday asking him to rethink his fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget recommendation to slash $546 million in funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The groups, which include AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, the HIV Medicine Association, and POZ Magazine, noted the request “recommended funding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at $1.65 billion — keeping the U.S. on track to reach its three-year commitment of $4 billion by 2013,” but in the letter stated, “[W]e must and we do strongly object to the apparent shoring up of the Global Fund budget request at the expense of the PEPFAR program. … These two programs are synergistic and often provide complementary services to the same communities,” the blog notes (Mazzotta, 3/2).

Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Lauded For Undergoing Voluntary HIV Counseling, Testing And Male Circumcision

“More than 170 [of Zimbabwe’s] parliamentarians from across the political divide have resolved to undergo voluntary counseling and HIV testing in a bid to encourage the grassroots to follow suit,” and “the 150 male members in the 175-member group have also resolved to be circumcised,” a Herald editorial states. “Members of Parliament are regarded as role models whose power of influence in society is immense,” the editorial writes, adding, “And as leaders, their message is readily received particularly if it is coupled by exemplary behavior in the communities they serve.”

Blog Summarizes Clinton’s Congressional Testimony On Administration’s FY13 Budget Request

Will McKitterick, a research assistant with the Center for Global Development (CGD), in this “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog post summarizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “grueling marathon of Congressional committee hearings in defense of the FY2013 international affairs budget request.” The nine hours of hearings “ran the gamut of U.S. priorities in national security and foreign policy,” McKitterick writes, adding, “Congressional leaders seemed alarmed by reductions in global health spending and raised specific concerns over the administration’s ability to meet its commitments to its PEPFAR goal of placing six million people on life-sustaining treatment by 2013. Secretary Clinton assured the committees that cuts would be balanced by consolidating programs, finding efficiencies, improving partners’ capacity, and shifting more responsibilities to host countries” (3/2).

Male Circumcision Initiative In Kenya Fails To Meet Target For First Time, PlusNews Reports

“Kenya’s most recent male circumcision rapid results initiative failed to meet its target, and officials are stepping up efforts to identify and fix the problems that could foil the government’s campaign to circumcise more than one million men by 2013,” PlusNews reports. “Conducted between November and December 2011, the initiative aimed to circumcise 70,000 men over a 30-day period, but results released in February show that only 40,000 men were circumcised,” the news service writes, adding, “This is the first time the annual initiative — which began in 2008 — has failed to reach its target.”

WHO Reports More Than 900,000 Lives Saved Because Of HIV/TB Care And Prevention Guidelines, Releases Updated Version

“An estimated 910,000 lives were saved globally in six years due to guidelines intended to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS are protected from tuberculosis [TB], the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, releasing an updated policy on joint prevention, diagnosis and treatment of both diseases,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/2). “The number of HIV-positive people screened for TB rose almost 12-fold, from nearly 200,000 in 2005 to more than 2.3 million in 2010, the WHO said, as it released data on the impact of its 2004 guidelines on TB and HIV,” Reuters reports (3/2).

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Urges Lawmakers To Be Tested For HIV, Publicly Reveal Status As Part Of New Initiative

In an announcement launching the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV (ZIPAH) in Harare on Thursday, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said since he came to office in 1980 “quite a number of” his cabinet ministers have died of AIDS-related causes, and he challenged government officials to get tested for HIV and publicly reveal their status, the Zimbabwean reports (3/1). Chaired by lawmaker Blessing Chebundo, ZIPAH “aims to end HIV transmission among legislators and increase cooperation with other groups,” according to VOA News, and “so far 175 parliamentarians, including 25 staff members, have joined the program.” Chebundo “said the first public testing will take place in two months,” the news service notes.

WHO Criticized For Not Efficiently Communicating Recommendations On HIV, Contraception To African Women, PlusNews Reports

“HIV organizations, researchers and activists have criticized the WHO and UNAIDS for not clearly communicating [guidelines on HIV and hormonal contraception] to African women, who remain the most affected by the continent’s high HIV prevalence rates,” PlusNews reports. In February, the WHO confirmed its existing recommendations after a study published last year suggested that using hormonal contraceptive injections might double the risk of women acquiring HIV or transmitting the virus to a male partner, according to the news service. “However, because the U.N. agency was unable to definitively rule out the possibility that progesterone-only birth-control shots like Depo-Provera posed no HIV risk, it is now strongly advising women at risk of or living with HIV to use condoms concurrently to prevent HIV infection or transmission,” PlusNews writes.

Chinese Government Pledges Greater Support For Organizations Fighting HIV/AIDS

“Organizations involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS will get greater government support,” Yu Jingjin, director of the disease prevention and control bureau under China’s Ministry of Health, said, China Daily reports. He said, “‘The government will beef up investment and support for social groups’ and cooperate with reliable ones,” and added, “Each province this year will support three to five civil societies tackling HIV/AIDS and help them with operational costs and training,” according to the news service. “Yu urged health authorities to work more with society in general to fight AIDS,” China Daily writes, adding, “Cooperation in this sphere has not always worked fully to its potential, he said” (Shan, 3/2).

Women Need More Contraception Options That Protect Against Pregnancy, HIV

In this Huffington Post “Black Voices” opinion piece, Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responds to an announcement by the WHO in February that the agency would not revise its contraception guidelines for women living with and at risk of HIV infection based on a “study suggesting that hormonal contraception increases women’s risk of [acquiring and] transmitting HIV to their partners.” A panel found “there was not enough evidence” to support women abandoning hormonal contraception and concluded there should be “no restrictions on hormonal contraception,” Cullins states.

March Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

The March issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on global shortages of medicines; a public health round-up; an article on breast cancer awareness; a research paper on interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; and a paper on the global burden of cholera (March 2012).