“The health status of women is linked to their fundamental freedoms and empowerment,” Susan Blumenthal, public health editor at the Huffington Post and former U.S. assistant surgeon general, and Jean Guo, a health policy intern at the Center for the Study of Presidency and Congress, write in the website’s “Healthy Living” blog in a post marking International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on Thursday. “With 3.4 billion women worldwide, women’s health is a global issue today. Yet, societal and environmental factors including poverty, discrimination, and violence are undermining the advancement of women’s health,” they write.
In this post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, responds to a recently released analysis of adult mortality rates in African countries, which “found that between 2004 and 2008, in those nations where the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was most active, the odds of death were about 20 percent lower than in other countries in the region.” He writes, “It was one more piece in the growing collection of evidence that PEPFAR has been a tremendously successful program, advancing U.S. humanitarian and diplomatic priorities and saving millions of lives.” Collins continues, “That is why the proposal in President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget to cut bi-lateral HIV programming through PEPFAR by nearly $550 million, or 11 percent, has stunned so many on Capitol Hill and in the global health community.”
“At a public event [held Tuesday] on Capitol Hill, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria spotlighted the contributions of public-private partnerships to the Global Fund’s lifesaving work,” a joint press release (.pdf) reports. The event highlighted the “unique and essential roles” that partners like Chevron, the Coca-Cola Company, (RED) and PEPFAR play in improving lives around the globe, “[f]rom assistance in drug delivery, to supplying much-needed resources, to mobilizing consumer markets, to in-country partnerships,” according to the press release. “The partners highlighted at the Capitol Hill event have not only provided funding, but have also brought their individual expertise to the Global Fund, sharing their knowledge and building bridges between the public, private and health sectors,” the press release states (3/20).
“For the past two weeks, the buzz in Washington, D.C., and at the White House is all about women and girls,” Roxana Rogers, director of the USAID Office of HIV/AIDS, writes in this “IMPACTblog” post. She highlights a recently announced initiative, funded through PEPFAR, “to help local communities and grassroots organizations fight HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence [GBV].” Rogers continues, “Partnerships between U.S. agencies, civil society, private corporations, and international institutions are key to tackling these issues,” and describes several USAID-supported programs working to address HIV/AIDS and GBV (3/15).
“For the first time in over 20 years, the biennial International AIDS Conference will be hosted on American soil,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in this post in the AIDS.gov blog. “From July 22 to 27, AIDS 2012 will convene scientists, health professionals, policymakers and those affected by AIDS in Washington, D.C., to assess progress to date and identify next steps in the global response,” he writes. He notes, “The conference theme, Turning the Tide Together, underscores the pivotal moment in which AIDS 2012 is taking place,” and discusses the role that the U.S. has played in achieving scientific progress in the fight against AIDS since it was identified 30 years ago (3/15).
Nature examines how funding shortfalls are hampering global efforts to use drugs to curb the spread of HIV, writing, “[A]t this week’s annual Conference on RetroÂviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington, there was growing concern that financial austerity in the United States and elsewhere is eating away at the funding needed for a worldwide prevention effort.” The journal cites proposed reductions “to direct international aid for HIV programs under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)” in President Barack Obama’s FY 2013 budget request and an announcement by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last November that it had cancelled Round 11 grants “until 2014 because of tightening budgets in donor countries.”
In the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, notes that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the XIX International AIDS Conference in July that all women should be able to decide “when and whether to have children” and that PEPFAR, in a guidance [.pdf] released last week, said, “Voluntary family planning should be part of comprehensive quality care for persons living with HIV,” and referred to family planning as a human right. “Then, in bold type, they punctuated it with, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities,'” she writes. “They take it a step further with a caveat that before anyone decides they’d like their program to have anything to do with family planning, they had best consult relevant U.S. legal counsel first,” she adds. “To be fair, they do say that PEPFAR programs can just refer women to a different program that offers family planning,” but those programs are not always available, Sippel writes, adding, “So the suggestion is flawed from the start.”
“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.”
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog examines the issue of HIV/AIDS in the presidential election, writing, “This campaign season, the fight against HIV/AIDS has been absent from the press materials released by both President [Barack] Obama and [Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt] Romney — as well as from the conversation.” The blog provides examples of Obama’s actions addressing HIV domestically and abroad and summarizes remarks on the epidemic made by Romney during the campaign. The blog includes quotes from several experts and officials (Judem, 10/8).
“When President Barack Obama and [Republican presidential nominee] Gov. Mitt Romney debate Monday in Boca Raton for the final time, on foreign policy issues, I hope they will give us a chance to compare their visions of our country’s role in global health,” John May, chief medical officer of Armor Correctional Health Services in Miami, writes in a Palm Beach Post opinion piece. “It is a topic they have yet to address and have only touched on in their party platforms, perhaps because they are reluctant to discuss spending money in other countries,” but “it is important for voters to understand that, at about one-fourth of one percent of the federal budget, global health spending has little impact on the deficit while it addresses tremendous challenges,” he continues.