“Thirty years ago, the CDC reported the first cases of HIV/AIDS in New York and Los Angeles,” Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Kwei Quartey writes in the Huffington Post World Blog, noting, “Since the beginning of the epidemic, over 600,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States, and 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV.” He briefly recounts a history of the disease in both the U.S. and Africa, writing, “Initially thought to be a disease of gay white men, AIDS is now a global epidemic.” He continues, “Whatever its origins, HIV/AIDS became a severe epidemic in East Africa in the 1980s,” noting, “The initial response by African governments to the AIDS crisis was inadequate, and in some cases absent.”
“Ten years ago, I took my first role as a midwife in a refugee camp in Iran. … The situation for women and children was terrible — the maternal mortality rate was among the worst in the world,” Sabera Turkmani, president of Afghan Midwives Association, writes in this Al Jazeera opinion piece. “Today, there are many more trained midwives in Afghanistan, and the situation for mothers has improved,” she continues, adding, “Yet there is still a long way to go in providing mothers and babies with the support they need to save more lives.”
Uganda “has overcome a violent past, but hope is daily threatened by a force more deadly than any warlord or civil unrest”: the mosquito, Ugandan Health Minister Christine Ondoa writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece. According to the WHO, “Uganda has the highest incidence of malaria in the world,” and the disease is endemic in more than 95 percent of the country, she notes. Malaria “deeply affect[s]” Uganda’s economy, Ondoa says, noting Ugandans spend 25 percent of their incomes to treat and prevent the disease; children miss “countless school days,” and the disease renders some developmentally impaired after becoming infected. “As a result of these tremendous losses, African economists estimate that, if unchecked, malaria’s toll on Uganda’s annual GDP will rise over the next five years to as much as $3.2 billion,” she states.
A report (.pdf) released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation outlines the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) global health work, “present[ing] the first comprehensive analysis of DoD’s activities and budget in this area” and “aim[ing] to contribute to discussions about DoD’s role in global health, understandably regarded as controversial by many observers,” a Lancet editorial states. “The report notes that DoD’s work in global health is varied,” “[n]o overarching policy or strategic document guides the department’s global health-related efforts and there is no single budget for such activities,” the Lancet writes. The report estimates that DoD’s budget for global health work in FY 2012 was more than half a billion dollars, more “than the global health budgets for either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health during the same period”; however, “the effectiveness of this investment is unclear,” according to the editorial.
“Between 1970 and 2010, most emerging countries achieved impressive gains in contraceptive coverage,” but, “[b]y contrast, many sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries … have started their contraceptive revolution very late and progress to date has been minimal,” John May, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Jean-Pierre Guengant, researcher emeritus at the Research Institute for Development (IRD) in Marseille, France, write in CGD’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “The widespread belief in SSA that ‘development was the best contraceptive’ has been the major reason why countries did not launch organized family planning programs,” they write, adding, “By and large, the lack of progress in contraceptive coverage has precluded significant decreases in fertility in the region” (10/11).
“The global maternal mortality has dropped dramatically during the last decade,” but “too many women continue to die from pregnancy-related causes,” Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, writes in the BMJ Group Blogs. “In part, this is because unsafe abortion — one of the leading preventable causes of maternal death — is a public health crisis that is going largely ignored,” she continues, adding, “It is time for a public health approach to prevent unsafe abortion and the harm it causes individuals, families and society as a whole” (10/11).
“Worldwide, evidence-based interventions are being implemented in an effort to drive down child mortality and there are some signs that they are working,” a Lancet editorial states. “However, few countries are on course to meet the targets set by Millennium Development Goal 4,” the editorial notes. “Most maternal and child health programs do not reach the world’s poorest families; it is believed that efforts to do so cannot be successful, cost effective, and equitable,” it continues, adding, “Yet if interventions could reach these families, overall nutrition and health would improve and the lives of millions of children could be saved.”
“Pregnancy and childbirth is still the leading cause of death for teenage girls in the poorest corners of the world, and despite all the progress in reducing maternal mortality by 47 percent, we have yet to save these young, vulnerable lives,” Sarah Brown, founding chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “One of the biggest issues to resolve is child marriage; this is rightly front and center of the first International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, 2012,” she continues, adding, “That is why the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood has joined the campaign against child marriage and is calling on its supporters to take the lead with one of their recommended actions.”
“As the importance of [America's] foreign assistance has grown, so has the number of mechanisms to dispense it,” Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, write in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog. The authors note that “more than 24 different agencies play some role in our development and assistance efforts,” including USAID, PEPFAR, and the Department of Defense. They continue, “Policymakers have for some time recognized that we need to bring better strategic guidance and coordination to this system,” adding, “In particular, we need a better way to monitor and evaluate these programs to make sure they are working well and fulfilling their policy goals.”
Some countries in Africa “still rely on dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) for [malaria] vector control,” therefore “[i]t is … problematic that the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), without the consent of member states, and violating its own treaties, exerts relentless pressure to ban DDT globally,” Richard Tren, director of Africa Fighting Malaria, and Richard Nchabi Kamwi, Nambia’s minister of health and social services, write in a BMJ opinion piece. Nineteen countries reserve the right to use DDT under the 2000 Stockholm Convention, which “made an exception for DDT in disease vector control,” and the WHO endorses DDT, “arguing that a premature shift to less effective or more costly alternatives will have a negative impact on disease burden,” the authors state.