“On World AIDS Day, the fact that the number of children newly infected with HIV continues to decline is welcome news to UNITAID, the international drug purchase facility hosted by the World Health Organization,” Inter Press Service reports, adding, “But UNITAID is also well aware of how much more remains to be done for children already living with the disease.” IPS correspondent Julia Kallas interviews Philippe Douste-Blazy, U.N. under-secretary-general in charge of innovative financing and chair of the UNITAID executive board, “about the progress that has been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV but also how the international community must continue providing childhood HIV treatments to developing countries.” The news service writes, “‘There was some progress made but there is still a lot to be done by the international community,’ Douste-Blazy told IPS regarding the fight against HIV/AIDS” (12/1).
Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
“The success in reducing the number of children born with HIV is in danger of leaving children who already have the disease with poor access to treatment, experts in HIV and AIDS have warned,” BMJ reports. “Denis Broun, executive director of UNITAID, a not-for-profit organization that purchases drugs for the treatment of HIV and AIDS and other diseases, has welcomed news that the number of new infections in children is falling,” the journal writes, adding, “But he said that because fewer children are born with the virus, drug companies would no longer have an incentive to manufacture treatments and that childhood HIV might become a neglected disease.”
“The global economic crisis has caused many to reassess, refocus and redirect financial priorities,” and “[a]s a result, vital international aid to combat global health issues like HIV/AIDS is threatened,” Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron Corporation, and Frank Beadle de Palomo, CEO of mothers2mothers International, write in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog. “But there is good news: Mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be eliminated,” they continue, adding, “Through education, voluntary testing and counseling, antiretroviral therapies, safe delivery practices and breastfeeding protocols, we can ensure babies are born HIV-free.”
“Most people think malnutrition is all about not having enough food or enough of the right kind of food to eat,” but while “[t]his is a big part of the story … there are many other links in the chain,” Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies, writes in a BBC Magazine opinion piece. “So dealing with malnutrition means fixing all the links in the chain — food, health, sanitation, water and care,” he states. “We know that handwashing with soap helps prevent diarrhea. We know that fortifying flour and salt with key vitamins and minerals bolsters nutrient intake for those with low quality diets. We know that deworming improves nutrient absorption by the gut,” he continues.
“HIV is the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age,” and without HIV, “maternal mortality worldwide would be 20 percent lower,” Lucy Chesire, executive director and secretary to the Board of the TB ACTION Group, writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. She says that women “often face barriers accessing HIV treatment and care,” adding she recently “was struck with the significant role the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] has played in reducing women’s barriers to treatment.”
“Poverty is the leading cause of many vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin A,” and the problem is acute in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where food staples such as cassava and rice are high in calories but low in nutrients, Inter Press Service reports. Some experts say parents’ lack of knowledge about the nutritional requirements for children can lead to undernourishment, particularly in children under age five, the news service notes. “Still, there are signs that the trend is changing, largely due to a renewed push by development practitioners around the world to tackle the problem,” IPS writes and describes several efforts to improve access to vitamins. The news service concludes, “Nutrition plays a role in achieving almost every [Millennium Development Goal] — its impact on child health, for instance, could also boost the number of children attending school, promote gender equality by empowering women to take a more active role in their children’s health, and also improve maternal health, thereby reducing the maternal mortality ratio” (11/26).
The Guardian on Sunday published the winning article and a number of shortlisted articles from its International Development Journalism Competition. The winning article, Medicine versus myth in Sierra Leone, examines how a “lack of medical staff results in many preventable deaths” in the country. Shortlisted articles examine maternal mortality in Uganda, domestic abuse in Timor-Leste, and health worker shortages in Malawi, among other issues (11/25).
On Universal Children’s Day, November 20, “UNICEF issued a new research paper [.pdf] highlighting global demographic shifts forecast for the coming generation of children that present major challenges to policy makers and planners,” according to a UNICEF press release. For example, the paper says that “by 2050 one in every three births will be African,” and “in turn, under-five deaths will continue increasingly to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, in pockets of poverty and marginalization in populous lower-income countries and in least-developed nations,” the press release states, adding, “The paper’s recommendations include: targeting investments to the areas where children will be born; an emphasis on neglected groups, especially in high population, middle income countries; reaching the poorest and most isolated households, and urgently tackling the issue of old age dependency” (11/20).
IRIN examines how the WHO’s recent declaration that the MenAfriVac meningitis A vaccine can be transported or stored for up to four days without refrigeration will affect immunization campaigns in Africa’s meningitis belt, which runs from Senegal to Ethiopia. “As a result, very remote populations will access the vaccine more easily, the logistics of vaccine campaigns will be simpler, and vaccine campaign costs will drop both for partners and for national governments, said Michel Zaffran, coordinator of WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), and Marie-Pierre Preziosi, director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project, a partnership between international NGO PATH and WHO,” IRIN writes. Zaffran said, “I am quite confident that within the next year or two, we’ll have one or two more [vaccines] re-licensed in this way,” according to the news service. “Analysis on the heat stability of hepatitis B and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines is under way; next on the list are yellow fever, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease,” IRIN notes (11/20).
UNAIDS’ new World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, “shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people,” according to a UNAIDS press release. Between 2001 and 2011, “a more than 50 percent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries — more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV,” the press release states, adding, “In addition to welcome results in HIV prevention, sub-Saharan Africa has reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 59 percent in the last two years alone.” According to the press release, “The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children,” and the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped because of increased access to antiretroviral treatment.