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Philippines Experiencing Increasing Number Of New HIV Cases; Leaders Say Country Should Reconsider Policies

“At a time when many countries are seeing their HIV infection rates level off or decline,” health officials in the Philippines “have seen an unexpected surge in cases in the past several years, with a more than five-fold increase between 2007 and 2011, with 2,349 new cases last year,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Southeast Asia Real Time” blog reports, noting, “The total number of cases as of April 2012 is 9,396, compared to just 3,061 in 2007.” The blog continues, “Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of the unexpected increase. Either way, domestic and international HIV experts have been warning for a while that the Philippines has all the necessary ingredients for an HIV epidemic,” including low condom use, communities where multiple sexual partners or sex workers are widespread, and workers who travel overseas, “often in jobs or in regions that have relatively high rates of infection.”

GlobalPost Examines Adult Male Circumcision Campaign In Swaziland

Noting “the United States wants to accelerate the pace of male circumcisions to support 4.7 million procedures in the developing world by the end of next year, up from one million at the beginning of this year,” GlobalPost, as part of its AIDS Turning Point special report, examines the adult male circumcision campaign in Swaziland. “Based on evidence from other African countries that female-to-male transmission of the virus can be reduced by 60 percent if men are circumcised, PEPFAR last year added an additional $15.5 million in funding for an ambitious ‘accelerated saturation initiative’ to circumcise 80 percent of HIV-negative men between ages 15 and 49” in Swaziland, GlobalPost notes, adding, “A year later, 23 percent had undergone the procedure.”

New Exhibit Highlights Global Health Work Of Seattle-Area Institutions

An exhibit highlighting the global health work of Seattle-area institutions is opening Tuesday in the Next 50 Plaza at Seattle Center, the Seattle Times reports. According to the newspaper, the free exhibit, called “Global Health Experience,” “was organized by the Washington Global Health Alliance, an umbrella group of organizations and companies in the Seattle area focused on global health,” and “is built around the stories of four people in developing countries who have benefited from medical advances in the Seattle area: Aisha, a Ugandan girl whose mother faces cervical cancer; Ishmael, a Honduran man with diabetes; Wande, a woman in Tanzania whose daughter contracts malaria; and Archana, an expectant mother in India” (Meyer, 7/2).

Indonesia Must Work To Empower Women In Order To Improve Maternal Health Standards

Though Indonesia is “widely seen as a development success story — indeed, it is sometimes referred to as one of Asia’s ‘rising powers’ … in the area of maternal health, the successes have been modest and much remains to be done,” Andrew Rosser, associate director of the Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, writes in an Inside Indonesia opinion piece. “Indonesia is on track to meet many of these goals,” including those related to poverty, child nutrition and mortality, education, and tuberculosis and malaria, “[b]ut it is well off track when it comes to goals related to maternal health,” he states. The country also is “failing to meet its targets on the use of modern methods of contraception and reducing the ‘unmet need’ for family planning — that is, the proportion of couples who want to limit the number of children they have but do not have access to contraception,” Rosser notes.

Blog Posts Address London Summit On Family Planning

The London Summit on Family Planning, co-sponsored by the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with support from UNFPA and other partners, is scheduled to take place next week. The following blog posts address the summit and the issue of family planning.

New World Bank President Says Institution Open To Assisting High-Income Countries But Gives No Indication Of Refocusing

On his first day on the job, the World Bank’s new president, Jim Yong Kim, said Monday “that the institution would be open to offering technical assistance to crisis-plagued high-income countries like Greece,” the New York Times reports (Lowrey, 7/2). While Kim “emphasized that his top priority would be to protect developing nations at a ‘pivotal moment’ for a world economy that is losing steam rapidly, he said the bank could also deploy its technical know-how to help richer nations with structural problems,” Reuters writes (Wroughten, 7/2).

Philippines To Spend Nearly $12M On Contraceptives To Bolster Family Planning, Reduce Maternal Mortality Rate

The government of the Philippines plans to spend nearly $12 million on contraceptives this year in an effort to “save its ‘failed’ family planning program and drastically cut maternal deaths,” according to the Department of Health, IRIN reports. However, “[i]t is a controversial decision that even public health officials and family planning advocates admit may not be carried out by local officials wary of angering the [Catholic] Church or losing the votes of Catholic supporters,” the news service writes. In addition to purchasing and distributing condoms, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills, and other contraceptives “on a large scale for the first time in largely underfunded community centers across the country,” health officials say the plan “is aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, which went from just 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 in 2011 — a rise [of] 35 percent — according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey,” IRIN notes.

Cutting Funding For International Food Aid 'Not The Best Answer' To Saving Money In U.S. Budget

In order to “fill food gaps in the 70 most food deficient countries, … the U.S., through the Food for Peace program and other food aid programs, provides approximately two million tons of American-grown food donations to 50 million starving people every year,” James Henry, chair of USA Maritime, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “This food, delivered on ships proudly flying the U.S. flag in bags stamped ‘From the American People,’ provides a tangible symbol of our generosity that helps generate goodwill toward our nation,” and “we all should agree that our willingness to help others in need is one of our country’s proudest achievements.” Henry writes that though food aid programs account for less than one half of one percent of the federal budget and “impact the lives of millions of hungry people around the world every year,” they “are in jeopardy as some policymakers are considering eliminating funding for international food aid.”

GHTC Blog Reviews Recent Congressional Actions With Global Health Implications

In this post on the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s (GHTC) “Breakthroughs” blog, GHTC Senior Policy Associate Ashley Bennett reviews recent action “on the federal budget and other pieces of legislation that could have implications for global health research and development (R&D)” and discusses “what the next several weeks could bring.” She says that the Supreme Court’s Friday decision on the Affordable Care Act, “as well as the rapidly heightening politics surrounding the presidential campaign, could affect progress on finalizing a FY 2013 budget and securing a deal to avoid total sequestration,” and she concludes, “With everything that Congress needs to complete before the end of the calendar year, we may know the election result before we know next year’s final funding levels for key global health R&D programs” (6/28).

Advocacy Groups Say Corruption Leaving Millions Of HIV-Positive Ukrainians Without Treatment, AP Reports

The Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle reports on how Ukrainian “advocacy groups are accusing the government of embezzling millions of dollars in corrupt drug tenders and thus depriving patients of vital treatment.” The news service notes, “Of the estimated 450,000 Ukrainians who are HIV-positive, 70,000 require urgent treatment today, … [but] only 28,000 are receiving it, leaving over 40,000 of patients without antiretroviral therapy, which could greatly prolong their lives, according to WHO.” Igor Pokanevych, head of the WHO Country Office in Ukraine, said, “More resources should be allocated to fight against AIDS in this country,” but the AP reports that “advocacy groups charge that the government in fact has the necessary funds to treat all of its AIDS patients” and “accuse health ministry officials [of] embezzling money that should be used to treat patients by buying AIDS drugs at hugely inflated prices and then pocketing kickbacks.”

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.