“In a move that could lead to a new milestone for treatment in the evolution of the worldwide AIDS epidemic,” a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel on Thursday recommended Gilead Sciences’ antiretroviral drug Truvada be approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus, Reuters reports, noting the drug is already approved to treat HIV infection (Morgan, 5/10). “The panel voted 19-3 to approve the drug for use in gay men and 19-2, with one member abstaining, for heterosexual couples in which one person is HIV-negative,” according to the Wall Street Journal (Dooren, 5/10). “The recommendation is the first time that government advisers have advocated giving antiviral medicine to healthy people who might be exposed through sexual activity to the virus that causes AIDS,” the New York Times writes (Grady, 5/10). Though the FDA is not required to follow the panel’s advice, it usually does, and “[a] final decision is expected by June 15,” the Associated Press/Fox News reports (5/11).
“Algeria will partner with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to build the first HIV/AIDS research center in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA),” Nature Middle East reports. “The center, which should be operational by 2013, will be based in the city of Tamanrasset in southern Algeria” and “will bring together researchers from Africa, Europe and the United States working on treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS,” the magazine writes.
“Over the next few weeks, appropriators will be engaged in the challenging task of evaluating U.S. foreign assistance funding, including how effectively Congress’ global health investments are being used,” Charles Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; Molly Joel Coye, interim president and CEO of PATH; Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children; and Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, write in this Roll Call opinion piece. They continue, “As organizations funded in part by the U.S. government to implement global health programs in the field,” we “see firsthand how U.S. global health programs are working, and why now is not the time to cut multilateral and bilateral funding for these efforts.”
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the largest provider of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in Burma, also known as Myanmar, are calling for the gap between the need for and access to ART in the country to be closed, the Guardian reports. Approximately 240,000 people live with HIV in Burma, and doctors say half are in need of “urgent” ART, but national data estimates less than 30,000 were receiving ART in 2010, the newspaper writes, adding, “In a country where nearly 33 percent of people live below the poverty line, thousands of Burmese are unlikely ever to be able to afford ART, which, according to [MSF], cost $30 a month.”
Ahead of Mother’s Day on May 13, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, “Together we can go from 390,000 children becoming infected with HIV each year to zero,” and he highlights “three simple things we can all do to ensure babies everywhere can be born free from HIV.”
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria “expects to have an additional $1.6 billion to fund projects in 2012-2014, [the fund’s General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo] said on Wednesday, a turnaround from a funding freeze last year,” Reuters reports (Miles, 5/9). “The new funds are a result of ‘strategic decisions made by the Board, freeing up funds that can be invested in countries where there is the most pressing demand,’ a statement by the fund said,” according to PlusNews (5/10). “The money includes funds from new donors, from traditional donors who are advancing their payments or increasing contributions and from some donors, such as China, that have offered to support projects in their own country to free up cash for more pressing needs elsewhere, Jaramillo said,” Reuters notes (5/9). “This forecast is better than expected, and it comes from the fantastic response we are getting to our transformation,” Jaramillo said, adding, “But we need more to get the job done. Countries that implement our grants are saving more and more people, but demand for services is still enormous,” according to the statement (5/9).
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley on Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria, launched a five-year, $224 million USAID program, titled Strengthening Integrated Delivery of HIV/AIDS Services (SIDHAS), that aims to “increas[e] access to high-quality comprehensive HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis prevention, treatment, care and related services through improved efficiencies in service delivery,” the Daily Trust reports (Odeyemi/Odafor, 5/8).
UNAIDS on Tuesday launched a new campaign “aimed at ending new HIV infections among children by 2015 and ensuring mothers living with HIV remain healthy,” Xinhua reports (5/8). “The campaign, ‘Believe it. Do it.,’ is part of a global plan of action that was adopted last year at the U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS, when world leaders committed to end new HIV infections among children by 2015,” the U.N. News Centre writes (5/8). “Each year, about 390,000 children become newly infected with HIV and as many as 42,000 women living with HIV die from complications relating to HIV and pregnancy,” according to a UNAIDS press release (5/8).
The New York Times examines the Cuban network of sanitariums created to house and treat people living with HIV, “to keep the infected from having sex with anyone uninfected and to help them die comfortably.” Inside the facilities, patients received food, their former salaries, and care, but they could only leave with escorts, the newspaper notes. According to the New York Times, the sanitariums “were harshly criticized — Dr. Jonathan Mann, the first AIDS director at the World Health Organization, called them ‘pretty prisons’ — but they had a huge damping effect on the early epidemic. Fewer than 150 new cases were detected in the country each year through 1990.”
Goosby Calls For ‘Extraordinary Resources’ To Be Put Into Male Circumcision To Prevent HIV Infection
Male circumcision is “a highly significant, lifetime intervention” to prevent HIV infection that deserves “extraordinary resources,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby on Monday told a meeting of 400 army officials from 80 countries in Africa, Eastern Europe and central Asia, Agence France-Presse reports. Studies have shown that male circumcision can significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection, the news agency notes, adding that the U.S. “is sponsoring programs in several African countries with a goal of circumcising four million men by 2013.”