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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.”

Debate Continues Over Needle/Syringe Exchange Programs

Matt Fisher, a research assistant at the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center, summarizes the ongoing debate in Congress over needle and syringe exchange programs (NSEPs) in this post on the blog. He presents a history of NSEPs and notes, “President Obama recently signed the FY12 omnibus spending bill that, among other things, reinstated the ban on the use of federal funds for needle and syringe exchange programs (NSEPs); this step reversed the 111th Congress’ 2009 decision to allow federal funds to be used for these programs.” He concludes that despite scientific evidence that NSEPs are an effective public health intervention, “ideological and moral opposition remains,” and therefore, “the issue of federal funding will continue to be actively debated” (2/6).

Supporting Scientific Evidence Under PEPFAR To End AIDS

On Wednesday, several HIV experts spoke at a Capitol Hill briefing “supporting the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program’s reliance on scientific evidence to drive its work to end AIDS,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The speakers, including Diane Havlir of the University of California, San Francisco, RJ Simonds of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Renee Ridzon of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, talked about using antiretroviral treatment as a prevention method, the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision, and preventing HIV among marginalized populations at high risk of infection (Mazzotta, 2/3).

Swaziland Looking To Shore Up Funding For AIDS Treatment, Testing Supplies

“Cash-strapped Swaziland is struggling to fund its HIV programs, and experts are warning of long-term damage to treatment and prevention schemes if steps are not taken to ring-fence funding and supplies,” the Mail & Guardian reports. About 200,000 people are living with HIV in Swaziland, nearly one quarter of the population, the newspaper notes, adding, “Until now the government has done well in terms of providing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment — achieving 78 percent coverage, just under the World Health Organization’s ‘universal coverage’ rate of 80 percent. But there are fears that uncertainty about funding streams and weak supply-chain management could result in a reversal of this progress.” The article discusses funding from the government, PEPFAR, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; antiretroviral drug and testing supply problems; and the epidemic’s effect on children and life expectancy in the country (Redvers, 2/27).

NPR Blog Examines Global Health Service Partnership

NPR’s “Shots” blog profiles Vanessa Kerry, a physician and daughter of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and her work to develop the Global Health Service Partnership to send nurses and doctors to work abroad in exchange for a pay-down in their student loans. The partnership’s goal “is to reduce the severe shortage of medical workers in developing countries,” according to the blog, which adds Kerry “thinks the partnership will also strengthen health care here stateside by infusing U.S. doctors with a worldview centered on making the most of available resources.” The program is working with the Peace Corps and receives funding through PEPFAR, the blog notes (Doucleff, 9/26).

VOA News Report Examines PEPFAR's Use Of Generic Drugs, Discusses Search For HIV Vaccine

In a recent edition of VOA News’ “Science In The News,” correspondents Bob Doughty and Shirley Griffith report on “the growing use of generic drugs in fighting HIV” and discuss “the search for an effective vaccine against HIV.” They highlight a study of the effectiveness of PEPFAR conducted by researchers from Brown University in Rhode Island, noting lead researcher Kartik Venkatesh “says the high cost of patented antiretroviral drugs had an immediate influence on the program after it began.” They continue, “American officials considered whether to provide patented drugs to HIV-infected patients, both in the United States and overseas,” adding, “Using generic drugs helped cut the cost of treating a person [in a developing country] from about $1,100 a year to about $300 a year in 2005.”

Examining Effects Of Reduced AIDS Funding For Ethiopia

Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), and Kate McQueston, a program coordinator at CGD, write in the center’s “Global Health Policy” blog that a reduction in AIDS funding to Ethiopia from PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria “might be warranted due to epidemiological trends and improved efficiency, or might cripple progress as health programs dependent on external donors are cut back,” but “with the current poor status of basic information on beneficiaries and costs, it’s difficult to judge whether these cuts are good or bad.” They outline the history of AIDS funding in Ethiopia, posit what future funding might encompass, and say additional information is needed from PEPFAR, the Global Fund, and the Ethiopian government in order to know the true impacts of reduced funding (9/11).

Devex News Analysis Examines Democratic, Republican Party Platforms On Foreign Policy, Including Global Health

A Devex news analysis examines the Democratic and Republican platform positions on foreign policy following the party conventions, writing, “Even as pocketbook concerns continue to overshadow foreign policy issues on the campaign trail, in both Charlotte and Tampa, top-billed speakers made the case for the U.S. foreign aid program.” The article examines the core principles of each platform, notes that neither platform offers specifics on foreign aid spending, and discusses the platforms’ stances on certain foreign policy issues, including global health, food security, climate change, and gay rights.

U.S. Commitment To Foreign Assistance, Global Health To Rise Or Fall With Presidential Election Outcome

In this Lancet opinion piece, Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines a number of social, political, and financial issues at play ahead of the November 6 U.S. presidential election and their implications for domestic and global health programs. “Fundamentally, the 2012 election reflects a Grand Canyon scale rift through the national psyche over the importance of government, provision of tax-supported public goods, including health care, and who is responsible for the 2008 financial crisis and ongoing economic doldrums,” she writes. “But the biggest concern for America’s future is the budget,” she continues. Garrett discusses how sequestration might affect foreign assistance and global health programs and states, “U.S. commitment to foreign assistance and such international ventures as the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Obama’s signature Global Health Initiative are also likely to rise, or fall with the elections” (9/1).

Meeting Needs Of Children Living With, Affected By HIV 'Central' To PEPFAR Mission

“Meeting the needs of children, including both children living with HIV and those affected by the disease in other ways, is not peripheral to PEPFAR’s mission — it is central,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in USAID’s “DipNote” blog, adding, “It’s a responsibility, and an opportunity as part of our push toward an AIDS-free generation.” Goosby discusses how PEPFAR is working to expand HIV care and treatment; implement prevention programs, including preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission; promote resiliency among children “by reducing adversity, and building services and systems”; and address “the socio-emotional effects of the epidemic.” He continues, “But it goes without saying that PEPFAR cannot meet all the needs on our own. Achieving a generation that is truly free from AIDS and its devastating effects requires that we all support families and communities together,” and he describes how different stakeholders can work together toward the goal (9/25).