“In a move that is likely to raise the ire of HIV/AIDS activists, maternity clinics in [Harare] are conducting compulsory HIV/AIDS tests on pregnant women before they can register for delivery,” the Zimbabwean reports, adding, “Scores of pregnant women in the high-density suburb of Glen-Norah told this newspaper that they were being asked to bring their spouses [to be tested] if they wanted to register to deliver their babies.” According to the newspaper, “The Zimbabwean visited [a clinic] in Glen-Norah where workers confirmed they had turned away ‘a few’ people so they could bring their spouses for testing.”
Agence France-Presse reports that a group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is working to establish a regional association to combat HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination that is prevalent in the Balkan countries. “‘The pervasive stigma and discrimination by health care providers and society at large against high-risk populations — and self-imposed isolation of people living with HIV and AIDS — further fuels the growth of the epidemic’ in the western Balkans, a health NGO, Fondation PH Suisse, said in a 2010 report,” the news service writes. According to AFP, the groups will officially launch the initiative in April at an HIV/AIDS conference (Markovic, 1/13).
A Congressional delegation traveling in Africa visited Arusha, Tanzania, on Wednesday “to see first-hand the impact of development projects” funded by the U.S., IPP Media reports, noting that the delegation included Senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.). The delegation met with farmers who have used drought- and disease-resistant maize varieties, as well as “visited Ngarenaro Health Centre in Arusha, which receives support from private and U.S. government organizations,” including USAID, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and PEPFAR, the news service writes. According to a press statement, “the delegation also visited Ghana and South Africa, and would meet with the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials in Stuttgart, Germany, following their trip to Africa,” IPP notes (1/14).
Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, on Monday “urged Ukraine to step up its efforts to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” calling “on the Ukrainian authorities to expand opiate substitution therapy, ensure HIV/AIDS treatment in prison and increase government funding of anti-AIDS programs,” the Associated Press reports. “‘This is the region of the world — the only region of the world — where the AIDS epidemic is still growing,’ Kazatchkine told reporters in Kiev, adding that other countries have managed to stabilize their epidemics,” the news service writes. “The United Nations says Ukraine has Europe’s worst AIDS epidemic, with 1.3 percent of the population above [age] 15 infected with HIV,” according to the AP (1/16).
Counterfeit, Substandard Drugs Threaten Progress In Controlling Malaria In Africa, Researchers Report
“Hopes of controlling malaria in Africa could be wrecked by criminals who are circulating counterfeit and substandard drugs, threatening millions of lives, scientists” said in a study published in the Malaria Journal last month, the Guardian reports. “They are calling for public health authorities to take urgent action to preserve the efficacy of the antimalarials now being used in the worst-hit areas of the continent,” the newspaper adds (Boseley, 1/16). “The counterfeit medicines could harm patients and promote drug resistance among malaria parasites, warns the study, funded by the Wellcome Trust,” BBC News writes (1/16).
HHS To Spend Nearly $1.8M To Review Research Volunteer Rules, Fight STDs In Guatemala; DOJ Asks Related Lawsuit To Be Dismissed
“Responding to U.S. experiments that infected Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea in the 1940s, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will spend $1 million to study new rules for protecting medical research volunteers,” and “[a]n additional $775,000 will go to fighting sexually transmitted diseases in Guatemala,” the Washington Post reports (Vastag 1,10). “President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius all have apologized for the research, hidden for decades until a Wellesley College medical historian uncovered the records in 2009,” the Associated Press/Boston Globe notes (Pickler, 1/10).
Researchers in this PLoS Medicine article examine the efforts necessary to reach the WHO goal of reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk to less than five percent in Zimbabwe. They conclude, “Implementation of the WHO [prevention of MTCT (PMTCT)] guidelines must be accompanied by efforts to improve access to PMTCT services, retain women in care, and support medication adherence throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to approach the ‘virtual elimination’ of pediatric HIV in Zimbabwe,” according to the study (Ciaranello et al., 1/10). A Massachusetts General Hospital press release states the research “should help with the planning of expanded programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa and other areas with limited health resources” (1/10).
The International Herald Tribune’s “Express Tribune” reports on a two-day HIV/AIDS awareness workshop held in Pakistan this week. Speaking on Monday at the inaugural session of the event, titled “The State of HIV in Pakistan-2011,” Amir Maqbool, acting program manager of the National AIDS Control Program (NACP), stated that HIV/AIDS could not be controlled in the country without legislation and strong financial funding for prevention and control efforts, according to the newspaper. “In the aftermath of the devolution of the Ministry of Health, there is no mechanism to implement the legislation; something which previously fell under the purview of the Senate Standing Committee on Health,” the newspaper notes. The article highlights findings from multiple studies presented at the workshop (Wasif, 1/10).
Rwanda is expanding its medical male circumcision program this year, “as the country attempts to reach its goal of medically circumcising 50 percent of men by June 2013 as part of HIV prevention efforts,” PlusNews reports. “The free male circumcision program began in October 2011, and officials at the Ministry of Health say demand is growing,” according to the news service. However, with only 15 percent of men circumcised and a shortage of qualified health care workers, “the goal is unlikely to be met unless lower cadre health workers are involved in the campaign,” PlusNews writes.
PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog reviews a recent Science magazine article written by James Shelton of USAID’s Bureau of Global Health in which he raises concerns about the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) as a prevention strategy. The blog notes he especially expresses concerns over drug adherence and resistance. “Dr. Shelton does not entirely dismiss the usefulness of ARVs, but seeks to look a bit more critically at how effective they are as a prevention tool,” the blog states, noting that Shelton’s article concludes, “ARVs are no ‘magic bullet.’ But ARVs’ best potential is to contribute to the existing combination arsenal, which, well applied, can have a major impact in stemming the global HIV pandemic” (1/6).