Noting the progress made since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the upcoming recognition of World AIDS Day on December 1, Ronald Valdiserri, deputy assistant secretary for health, infectious diseases at the Department of Health and Human Services, writes in a Public Health Reports opinion piece (.pdf), “[W]e would do well to keep in mind the following caution. No matter the elegance of the controlled trial, the statistical significance of the results, or the superiority of the science, we must confront this inevitable reality: We will never be able to take full advantage of our progress in HIV clinical and prevention science until we develop and sustain the human, organizational, and structural capacities necessary to implement these new scientific breakthroughs.” He continues, “If we fail to attend to the ‘on-the-ground’ details of implementation, we risk dissipating the promise of new drugs, novel therapies, and enhanced interventions that could, in fact, lead us to an AIDS-free generation.”
Programs, Funding & Financing
The Global Washington blog summarizes a discussion about the role of U.S. foreign aid that took place last week in Columbus, Ohio, between former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and former Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). While the discussion, convened by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and moderated by Ohio Public Radio and Television Bureau Chief Karen Kasler, focused on the future role of Ohio in global development, Frist said humanitarian aid is an important component of U.S. foreign policy and “encouraged the audience to see U.S. policies as ‘replacing desperation and disease and poverty with health and hope and opportunity,'” according to the blog. “Senator Frist and Governor Richardson were emphatically positive about the future of U.S. foreign aid, and both encouraged the audience to keep up with global health and business developments over the next few months,” the blog notes (Jensen-Clem, 11/1).
According to a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WHO joint press release, USAID “has tripled its financial support for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Regional Tuberculosis Program, which seeks to prevent 15,000 deaths from tuberculosis in Latin America and the Caribbean over the next five years and reduce the incidence of this disease.” The press release notes the commitment “increases a previous $5 million USAID/PAHO agreement, signed in November 2011 to strengthen programs for tuberculosis, maternal and neonatal health, and health systems in the region over the course of a three-year period, to a total of $8.9 million.” The press release states that $5.1 million is earmarked for the tuberculosis program, “up from an originally expected investment of $1.5 million” (10/31).
Scaling Up Nutrition Movement Gaining Momentum, But Some Countries Still Reluctant To Join, IRIN Reports
“Two years after the launch of a global effort to mobilize countries in the use of scientific approaches to improve nutrition, the movement seems to be gaining momentum,” IRIN reports, noting, “More than 30 countries have signed up with the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, better known by its acronym SUN.” However, “some countries are still reluctant to join amid questions and criticism over its lack of clarity and perceived relationship with companies that have controversial nutrition records, say experts,” the news service writes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday released a 268-page annual report that “profiles a wide range of CDC influenza-related projects around the world, from flu surveillance in Indonesia to vaccine effectiveness studies in El Salvador and epidemiology training in Ghana,” CIDRAP News reports. The report also “describes the CDC’s collaborations with the World Health Organization (WHO), outlines projects it supports in about 40 countries, … describes specific studies undertaken in many of those countries,” “lists international training conferences it has sponsored, and describes the CDC program for sharing diagnostic test kits and reagents,” the news service writes. “Over the past six years the [international] program has undergone remarkable growth and has expanded to provide support to over 40 countries, all WHO regional offices and WHO headquarters,” the report notes, according to CIDRAP. “The report, covering 2011, is the third annual account of the agency’s global flu activities, which have expanded greatly in the past decade,” the news service adds (Roos, 10/30).
The Associated Press examines the debate over the future of the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), after the recent release of two papers evaluating the program’s effectiveness. AMFm was established in 2010 as “a pilot project to subsidize artemesinin combination drugs, the most effective malaria treatment,” the AP writes, noting the $460 million program is managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “Last week, a report by Oxfam, an international charity, labeled the program a failure and said there was no proof it had saved lives because officials didn’t track who received the drugs,” the news service writes, adding, “But in another paper published Wednesday in the journal Lancet, experts insisted the program was ‘an effective mechanism’ to lower the price of preferred malaria drugs and make them widely available.” The Global Fund is scheduled to discuss the future of the program at a meeting next month, according to the AP (Cheng, 10/31).
“The implementation of an ambitious bill that guarantees cheap food grains for India’s poor could be pushed back to the next fiscal year, a top government adviser said,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “[I]mplementing the bill in the fiscal year starting April 2013 would make financial and political sense for the government, which is facing a yawning budget gap and federal elections before May 2014,” according to the newspaper, which adds the bill is “likely to be introduced in the budget session, which is due late February, C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, said in an interview.” After a general debate, parliament would have to approve the bill, which “aims to provide subsidized grains to more than 60 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people, with special provisions for pregnant women, destitute children and others,” for it to become law, the newspaper writes, adding, “A government spokesman declined to comment on the matter Friday” (Sahu/Guha, 10/27).
While there is “much to be proud of” in the progress in the fight against polio, “there’s still more work to be done,” former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece. Martin, a polio survivor, notes that in 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched, 350,000 cases in more than 125 countries were recorded annually, but “[s]o far this year, we’ve seen just 171 cases, and only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria have never stopped transmission.” He continues, “Canada has been a leader in this fight,” but “[t]he credit for this progress, of course, goes far beyond Canada” to “the work of global partners like the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the frontline workers whose tireless efforts make all of this possible; and the countries that are making the political and financial commitments necessary to see the end of this disease.”
Noting “[w]e are just three years away from the target date for achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by all … U.N. member states back in 2000 to eradicate global poverty,” Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in this Independent opinion piece reflects “on the critical role of health in and beyond the Millennium Development Goals” ahead of the second meeting of the U.N. Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the future strategy to fight global poverty, set to take place in London on Wednesday. Piot writes that the MDGs have “given local and global focus to efforts to tackle the big issues,” while inspiring action, innovation, and new financing models, but he notes “there is still so much more we need to do.”
“The world is on the verge of a great success story: the eradication of polio,” John Hewko, CEO and general secretary of Rotary International, and Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, write in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. But “[t]here is still ground to cover,” they continue. “Even though the current cases of polio transmission number less than 200 so far this year, the case for finishing the job — getting to zero — is more crucial than ever,” they write, adding, “If polio is fully eradicated, it can’t ever return. On the other hand, if even a few cases persist, and the world lets its guard down, those few cases could become the start of a new epidemic.”