The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) reports on HIV in the Kingdom of Swaziland, writing the country “now has the dubious distinction of having the world’s highest rate of both HIV and tuberculosis (TB).” The journal notes “[a]bout 26 percent of adults aged 15-49, or about 202,000 of all the citizens of Africa’s last absolute monarchy, are HIV-positive, according to the Swaziland government,” and asks, “Why are the 1.2 million people of this landlocked kingdom … in such dire straits?” CMAJ writes, “A host of underlying factors appear to be at the root of its woes: politics, history, culture, economics, poverty, gender inequity, and much more.”
Programs, Funding & Financing
“[T]he latest calculations show that U.S. ethanol policies have increased the food bills of poor food-importing countries by more than $9 billion (Â£5.6 billion) since 2006,” Olivier De Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog. He asks, “But where to next? Should we disavow biofuels altogether?” He writes, “The new starting point should be to put food security first,” noting, “Globally, 25 percent of land is already degraded, and the remaining productive areas are subject to ever-greater competition from industrial and urban uses.”
“An HIV/AIDS report by advocacy organizations in Uganda indicates that new transmissions are on the rise amidst troubling trends of increasing prevalence and incidence,” Uganda’s New Vision reports. “The findings are contained in a report titled: ‘The Change We Need to End AIDS in Uganda,’ which describes a 10-point plan to halt the trend,” the newspaper notes. “Some of the 10 points include ending harmful policies that further marginalize vulnerable groups; endorsing and expanding safe medical circumcision; and tackling health challenges that hold back the response to AIDS,” according to the newspaper.
Number Of New TB Infections Fall, But Drug Resistance, Lack Of Funding Could Slow Progress, WHO Reports
“New tuberculosis [TB] infections dropped 2.2 percent worldwide last year, but with nearly nine million new infections, the World Health Organization said TB remains a massive problem that could worsen if countries shortchange funding to fight it,” Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 10/17). “In a new report issued Wednesday, the U.N. agency estimated there were about 8.7 million new cases of TB last year, down from about 8.8 million in 2010,” and “[t]he number of deaths was unchanged at about 1.4 million — making it the second-leading killer among infectious diseases after AIDS,” the Associated Press writes (Cheng, 10/17). “The number of people becoming ill with tuberculosis has been falling steadily for roughly a decade after a surge in the 1990s,” but “those numbers are still huge, and only 19 percent of those infected with forms of the disease that are resistant to multiple tuberculosis drugs are being diagnosed, the WHO estimated,” according to the Wall Street Journal (McKay, 10/18). BBC News notes the report “warned of ‘persistently slow progress’ in treating tuberculosis which is resistant to antibiotics” (Gallagher, 10/17).
PlusNews examines challenges and concerns over an announcement by the Zimbabwean government that it plans to train nurses to prescribe and administer antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to people living with HIV in the country. “Previously, nurses were allowed only to administer the drugs after a doctor had prescribed them,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, changes made in the job descriptions of nurses by the Nurses’ Council of Zimbabwe will see them prescribing the medication.” Owen Mugurungi, director of the HIV/AIDS and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, said, “I need to point out that it’s not enough that a professional council allow nurses to administer drugs; this should be followed up with measures to capacitate nurses to do this work correctly,” according to PlusNews. The news agency looks at how the possibility of work overload for nurses, a government hiring freeze on nurses, and ARV availability could affect the country’s plan to reach 85 percent of the population in need of HIV treatment by the end of this year (10/16).
“A new survey of European Union [E.U.] residents reveals that even an economic crisis doesn’t dampen Europeans’ support for aid,” Amie Newman, a communications officer and editor for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, writes in the blog, noting, “Eighty-five percent of Europeans say that Europe should continue helping developing countries — primarily those, however, that are affected by a natural crisis or a conflict.” She adds, “On the other hand, the majority of respondents want to see emerging economies including Brazil, India, and China cut off from aid” (10/16).
Though “conflict and insecurity problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria have presented challenges to polio immunization, … these are surmountable obstacles,” Siddharth Chatterjee, chief diplomat and head of strategic partnerships and international relations at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, writes in the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory. “Millions of children have received polio vaccines in countries ravaged by conflict and poverty, thanks to determined action by national governments and the work of courageous health workers from UNICEF, WHO, Red Cross-Red Crescent National Societies, and [non-governmental organizations],” he notes. In addition to providing political will and humanitarian solidarity, “[w]e must ensure the effort is fully funded; not just year-by-year, but for the long term,” he writes, concluding, “We have the opportunity to ensure success, and we must not fail to deliver a legacy of a polio-free world” (10/16).
“Health workers in Myanmar are confident that efforts to narrow the country’s huge gap between access to, and need for, life-saving medicines to treat HIV/AIDS are back on track after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria invited the country to apply for additional funding,” IRIN reports. “The agency’s coordinator for Myanmar, Eamonn Murphy, said new funds will allow the country to close a ‘treatment gap’ where only one-third of the 120,000 people nationwide who need [antiretrovirals (ARVs)] receive them,” the news service notes. “A spokesman for the Global Fund said it ‘had encouraged an application by the country for more money’ following an August visit to Myanmar by its general director,” IRIN writes. “Health officials drafted a ‘concept note’ outlining how additional funding might be used, which will be reviewed by the Global Fund’s board, Murphy said,” according to the news service, which notes, “It offers two scenarios: the first ensures 85 percent of those who need ARVs receive them by 2015; while with the second, 76 percent of people would be covered, he said.” The news service adds, “Based on feedback from the board, the government will choose a strategy for the proposal to be submitted early next year” (10/12).
In the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a senior fellow at CGD, introduces the center’s new online forum in which they “have asked prominent thinkers and practitioners what reforms the Global Fund should prioritize and how it should best fulfill its mandate of improving the way development aid is managed in addition to advancing the fight against the three diseases as its Board considers new policies and its new Executive Director prepares to takes office.” She continues, “Our initial posts come from Erin Hohlfelder (Policy Director, Global Health at ONE), Anders Nordstrom (Ambassador for Global Health at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs), and Prashant Yadav (Director of Healthcare Research at the William Davidson Institute, University of Michigan). We will continue to add new perspectives in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out on the Global Health Policy Blog and the forum’s homepage for updates” (10/15).
U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby is “expected to announce a new initiative between the U.S. government, the Rwandan Ministry of Health and 14 American medical schools at a press conference Monday in Kigali, Rwanda,” the New York Times reports. “The Human Resources for Health program will send 100 faculty members from eight medical colleges, five nursing and midwifery schools, and one health management school to Kigali where they will train health professionals and medical students, according to a statement from the Clinton Global Initiative,” the newspaper writes. “The two governments, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the universities have committed $152 million to the seven-year program,” the newspaper notes (Lau, 10/14).