The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog summarizes an event held Thursday, titled “AIDS-free Generation? Not Without Women,” that was sponsored by the National Council of Women’s Organizations. The session aimed “to draw attention to pivotal issues surrounding the impact of AIDS on women worldwide” ahead of the International AIDS Conference, the blog states. Speakers at the event included Katherine Fritz, global health director at the International Center for Research on Women, and Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health And Gender Equity (CHANGE), according to the blog, which notes “CHANGE recently released two reports on the implementation of the Global Health Initiative and reproduction health care in Guatemala and Ethiopia, concluding that GHI principles could be used to enhance services and conditions in both countries” (Barton, 6/22).
No Definitive Link Between Hormonal Contraceptives And Increased Link Of HIV Infection Among Women, CDC Says
“There is no clear link between the use of contraceptives such as the birth control pill or Depo-Provera shots and an increased risk that a woman will contract HIV, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday,” Reuters reports, noting that the WHO came to the same conclusion in February. Following a review of recent studies suggesting women taking hormonal contraceptives might be at an increased risk of HIV infection, “the Atlanta-based CDC said, ‘the evidence does not suggest’ a link between oral contraceptives such as the birth control pill and increased HIV risk,” the news agency writes. CDC officials said though the evidence for injectable contraceptives is inconclusive, they too are safe, according to Reuters. “Women at risk for HIV infection or who already have the virus ‘can continue to use all hormonal contraceptive methods without restriction,’ the CDC said,” the news agency writes. However, “the CDC also said it was ‘strongly’ encouraging the use of condoms as a precaution against the virus that causes AIDS,” Reuters notes (Beasley, 6/21).
In the third of a series of entries in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, titled “A Daughter’s Journey,” Tracy Jarrett, a GlobalPost/Kaiser Family Foundation global health reporting fellow, visits a USAID-funded HIV clinic at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. The clinic’s Perinatal HIV/AIDS Research Unit (PHRU) focuses on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) with funding from USAID and PEPFAR, she states, noting that the “clinic has been a game changer for mothers in Soweto [township] and an example for other PMTCT clinics throughout South Africa” (6/21). Jarrett, whose mother died of AIDS-related complications, is traveling “from Chicago to New York to South Africa to report on what is being done to keep babies and their mothers alive, to fight against stigma and to help those infected while reporting on what is still left to do to achieve an ‘AIDS-free generation,'” according to the first post in her series (6/15). The second post also is available online (6/19).
In an effort to “raise awareness around the U.S. global response to HIV/AIDS,” the AIDS.gov blog has republished a post by U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby in which he discusses the XIX International AIDS Conference, taking place in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years from July 22-27. He notes, “The conference theme, Turning the Tide Together, underscores the pivotal moment in which AIDS 2012 is taking place,” and discusses the role that the U.S. has played in achieving scientific progress in the fight against AIDS since it was identified 30 years ago (6/21).
“Zimbabwean lawmakers started taking public HIV tests on Wednesday in a campaign seeking to raise awareness and fight the stigma associated with AIDS,” VOA News reports, adding, “At least 60 parliamentarians from across the political divide will have tested when the three-day program, which is also offering counseling services, ends Friday.” According to the news service, “The Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV/AIDS, a voluntary organization formed early this year to promote awareness and fight stigma in communities, is leading the campaign” (Gumbo/Gonda, 6/21).
GlobalPost Examines Investment In Community Care Workers In South Africa As PEPFAR Moves Toward Local Implementation Of Programming
“Nearly a decade after it came into being, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) … is moving increasingly to support local leadership and implementation capacity” in South Africa, GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports. “And given the South African health system’s weaknesses in the face of the magnitude of AIDS and TB, that means an investment in … lay listeners with just a few weeks of training,” who can discuss treatment and other issues with patients, the blog writes. The blog profiles Goodness Henama, “one of 22 community care workers in Wallacedene township, in the Cape Town suburb of Kraainfontein.”
VOA News examines the South African government’s decision in September 2011 to stop providing a free six-month supply of infant formula to mothers with HIV and have “its health facilities … encourage the women to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives.” Though some criticized Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for implementing the policy, “doctors at a hospital in an isolated part of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province praised the minister’s action as brave and visionary and said it would ultimately result in many lives being saved,” the news agency writes. The article profiles the experience of doctors at Zithulele Hospital in Oliver Tambo District, which has followed the exclusive breastfeeding policy since 2006 and where one of every four mothers is infected with HIV; outlines why exclusive breastfeeding is preferable to mixed feeding; and discusses the challenges to implementing the policy nationwide (Taylor, 6/19).
Family Planning Summit Offers Opportunity To Integrate Reproductive Services With HIV, Other Health Initiatives
Noting that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. government will co-host an international family planning summit in London in July, Gavin Yamey of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco; Craig Cohen, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at the University of California; and Elizabeth Bukusi, chief research officer and deputy director of research and training at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, write in a BMJ commentary, “More than 120 million women worldwide aged 15-49 years have an unmet need for family planning, which is due a renaissance after years of neglect.”
In this NDTV opinion piece, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on his recent trip to India, writing, “During my recent visit, I had a chance to see the latest progress on things that matter a lot to us: on eradicating polio and curtailing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, for example.” He continues, “And I saw how India is emerging as a model and increasingly a catalyst for improvement in other developing countries,” adding, “The current situation in India is quite hopeful.”
“Ten years ago today President Bush stepped into the Rose Garden to announce a $500 million program to stop the transmission of HIV passed from mothers to children during birth,” an announcement that “led the way to PEPFAR,” which Bush announced in his 2003 State of the Union address, John Donnelly, correspondent for GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, writes in this commentary in the blog. “In the years since, PEPFAR has been credited for saving millions of lives, most of them in Africa,” he continues, adding, “For anyone who cares about the global AIDS fight, today should be a day to celebrate the saving of millions of lives in the developing world.”