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U.N. Report Shows Francophone African Countries Lag Behind In AIDS Treatment; NGOs Call For Increased Funding

“Despite great progress within a short time, the 29 French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa are lagging far behind other states in the region in the battle against HIV/AIDS and need a massive increase in international aid, according to a United Nations report” (.pdf) released Friday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report — titled “Decision Point La Francophonie: No new HIV infections, no one denied treatment” and released at a meeting of the 56-member state International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) in Kinsasha, Democratic Republic of Congo — said while antiretroviral treatment coverage in IOF countries increased rapidly between 2003 and 2011, resulting in a nearly 30 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths, “an estimated 970,000 people are still waiting to access life-saving HIV treatment in IOF countries, accounting for 14 percent of the global treatment gap,” according to the news service.

PEPFAR Releases FY13 Country Operational Plan Guidance

PEPFAR has released its “Fiscal Year 2013 Country Operational Plan (COP) Guidance” on its website. The document (.pdf) provides guidance with respect to COP preparation; priorities and approaches for FY 2013; mandatory earmarks and reporting requirements; COP elements; as well as management and operations (October 2012).

Tanzania Investigating Circulation Of Fake HIV Drugs, Stops Local ARV Production

BBC News reports on an investigation into the circulation of fake HIV drugs in Tanzania, writing, “Analysts say there is concern about the quality of locally made drugs given widespread corruption in political circles in the East Africa nation.” Health Minister Hussein Mwinyi “has suspended three top officials and stopped local production of the antiretrovirals (ARVs) while the probe takes place,” the news service notes, adding, “Mwinyi said the health ministry was alerted in August to problems with a batch of ARV drugs at the Tarime District Hospital.”

Indonesia Issues Order To Override Patents On 7 HIV, Hepatitis Drugs

“Indonesia’s government has quietly issued an order to override the patents on seven important medicines used to treat people with HIV and hepatitis B and allow cheap versions to be made by local drug companies,” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” “The ‘government use’ order was made on 3 September, but with no fanfare and, as yet, no public outcry from the pharmaceutical giants which, in the past, used to defend their patents volubly and aggressively — through the courts as well as diplomatic back-channels,” Boseley writes (10/11). Reuters notes the move “follow[s] the lead” of other Asian nations, including India and China, “that have allowed the production of cheap generic drugs that cut into the sales of global pharmaceutical companies” (Bigg/Hirschler, 10/12).

Mexican Government, NGOs Working To Expand Access To Clean Syringes To Prevent HIV Among IDUs

Inter Press Service examines how Mexico’s government and non-governmental organizations are working to stem the spread of HIV among people who use injection drugs. “According to a project financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria since 2011, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Mexico is 5.77 percent among intravenous drug users … compared to 0.24 to 0.3 percent in the general population aged 15 to 49,” IPS writes, noting HIV prevalence among drug users is highest in “northern Mexico, one of the areas in the country hit hardest by drug trafficking.” The news service adds “[t]here are 28 syringe exchange programs in this country of 112 million people, insufficient to serve the entire population of intravenous drug users.” IPS discusses funding shortfalls for syringe exchange programs, legal hurdles to obtaining clean injection equipment, and how the government aims to continue receiving Global Fund money through 2013 (Godoy, 10/11).

S. African National AIDS Council CEO Speaks To PlusNews About Reform, Funding

Fareed Abdullah, CEO of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), who took office in July, spoke with PlusNews regarding the body’s reform, the revival of provincial AIDS councils, resource mobilization, and the appointment of a new board that allows SANAC to operate independently. According to the news service, Abdullah said the secretariat has three times as many staff as it did three months ago, adding, “We have a team of eight people working on the grant renewal process for about five Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] grants. We’ve committed two staff members to dealing with PEPFAR [the U.S.-based President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] and the new agreement to co-manage programs, and we’ll expand [staff] as the needs expand” (10/11).

Global Fund, Churches Health Association of Zambia Sign Grant Agreement Worth $102M

“The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria signed a grant agreement worth $102 million with the Churches Health Association of Zambia [CHAZ] Wednesday,” Devex’s “Development Newswire” reports. Part of the grant — $44 million — is “‘old money’ that had already been approved before,'” Marcela Rojo, Global Fund communications officer, told Devex in an email, the news service states, adding, “The money is on top of the $141.8 million in Global Fund grants that the U.N. Development Programme signed on behalf of the health ministry in 2011” (Ravelo, 10/11). “Activities implemented by this grant will focus on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, promoting male circumcision, expanding and sustaining HIV treatment, reducing new infections, and maintaining a high coverage of impact mitigation,” as well as strengthening counseling and testing and HIV treatment adherence, PANA/Afriquejet notes (10/11).

PEPFAR Launches Training Initiative For HIV/AIDS Organizations In Bahamas

“On Wednesday, October 10, U.S. and Bahamian officials attended the official launch of ‘The Caribbean Grant Solicitation and Management Program,’ a new PEPFAR initiative that will be executed locally by the U.S.-based nonprofit World Learning through USAID,” a press release from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, reports. “The main goals of these grants include: educating people, especially youth, about HIV/AIDS and thereby preventing its spread; reducing stigma and encouraging safe practices for those living with the disease; and supporting communities to cooperate in fighting the epidemic,” the press release notes, adding, “Project proposals are being accepted through November 16, 2012” (10/10).

Zimbabwean AIDS Activists March To National AIDS Council Demanding Accountability For AIDS Levy Funds

AIDS activists in Zimbabwe this week marched to the Harare headquarters of the country’s National AIDS Council (NAC) and “demand[ed] the government account for millions of dollars it is raising through an AIDS-related tax,” VOA News reports. Zimbabwe implemented the tax, meant to pay for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, in 1999, but people living with HIV say they are not receiving treatment, according to the news service. Spiwe Chabikwa, who traveled from Bulawayo to protest, said, “The demonstration is not against the government, just against corruption. … Everyone is affected; the AIDS levy is paid by everyone whether HIV-positive or not,” VOA states. In an interview with VOA, NAC Director Tapiwa Magure said, “We are up to date with our audits. There are tight controls … All I am saying is, we are more than ready to explain everything.” The news service notes the “Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has petitioned the National AIDS Council demanding that the agency release information related to how the AIDS levy is being administered” (Mhofu, 10/10).

UNAIDS To Support Republic Of Congo's Efforts To Reduce HIV MTCT

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “on Wednesday hailed the efforts of the Republic of Congo government in the fight against HIV/AIDS in general, and particularly in the reduction of transmission from mother to child,” Xinhua reports. After meeting with Congolese Health Minister Francois Ibovi, Sidibe said, “The Republic of Congo is one of the African countries that have demonstrated that we can control this infection and that we can significantly reduce the number of new infections. It’s one of the countries that have reduced the rate of new infections by 22 percent and we believe that by 2015, we shall have between two to three percent infections by maximum, something which will be an enormous progress,” according to the news service. He said UNAIDS will support the government’s efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission and provide treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, Xinhua notes (10/11).

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