“At least seven nude protesters stormed House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office in the Longworth House Office Building on Tuesday, according to reports from Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo and others who were there,” the Huffington Post reports (Klapper, 11/27). “The activists were protesting proposed budget cuts to AIDS funding that could be included in the looming fiscal cliff,” MSNBC’s “The Last Word” writes, adding, “They painted their bodies with slogans, such as ‘AIDS cuts kill’ and ‘Fund PEPFAR'” (Godburn, 11/27). The protesters are “members of the group ACT UP — which saw its heyday in the 1980s,” the New York Times’ “Debt Reckoning” notes (Weisman, 11/27).
Programs, Funding & Financing
“As we head into the time of year people usually associate with selflessness and giving, Canadians should stop and think about whether our country is doing enough for international development,” Steven Hoffman, an assistant professor at McMaster University, a fellow at the University of Toronto and an instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health, writes in a Globe and Mail opinion piece. “Foreign aid policy is the way a country presents itself and its values to the world,” Hoffman writes, adding, “If you ask Canadians, three natural values stand out: gender equality, democratic governance and health for all. These are Canadians’ priorities.” He continues, “The business case for giving priority to health in our foreign aid policy is particularly strong,” and adds, “Global health initiatives contribute to social well-being while also advancing human rights, trade, economic growth, and security.” He writes, “Canada is certainly not the world leader it once was and should be on health issues. That role has been abandoned by the current federal government,” and continues, “Canada must build on its strengths and the priorities of its citizens to address development needs, especially gender equality, democratic governance, and global health” (11/26).
“Eliminating the worldwide shortage of eyeglasses could cost up to $28 billion, but would add more than $200 billion to the global economy, according to a study” conducted by researchers from Australia and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published last month in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, the New York Times reports. “The authors assumed that 703 million people worldwide have uncorrected nearsightedness or farsightedness severe enough to impair their work, and that 80 percent of them could be helped with off-the-rack glasses, which would need to be replaced every five years,” the newspaper writes, noting, “The $28 billion would cover the cost of training 65,000 optometrists and equipping clinics where they could prescribe eyeglasses, which can now be mass-produced for as little as $2 a pair” (McNeil, 11/26).
Nigeria’s Kano State, Dangote Group, Gates Foundation Sign Memorandum Of Understanding To Fight Polio
Nigeria’s Kano State government, the Dangote Group, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday signed a multi-year memorandum of understanding “geared towards the eradication of polio in Kano State,” Actualite Afrique reports. According to the news service, a statement from the Gates Foundation said the public-private partnership aims to “improve routine immunization and primary health care in Kano State with a goal of reaching 80 percent coverage with basic vaccines by 2015” (11/27). Under the partnership, the organizations “would provide funding, equipment and technical support to the Kano State government to strengthen polio immunization,” Agence France-Presse writes (11/26).
In the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Todd Summers, senior adviser at the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, reviews the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s old rounds-based grant system that the Global Fund Board recently agreed to replace with a new funding model “that’s designed to be flexible, focused, and fast,” he says. Summers describes some of the shortcomings of the old model, outlines the “[c]ore attributes” of the new model, and writes, “Many other important aspects of the new funding model remain to be worked out, and some larger questions remain. I’ll try to highlight some of these in upcoming blogs” (11/26).
“As World AIDS Day 2012 approaches, it is a timely opportunity to reflect on what we learned at this year’s International AIDS Conference” and recognize “[t]he United States, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has been a remarkable vehicle in this fight, employing sound science to offer the highest quality interventions and treatment,” Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), writes in the AIDS.gov blog. Daulaire discusses how “[t]o ensure long-term sustainability, PEPFAR country programs and its implementing agencies are transforming their partnerships so that countries direct, implement, and evaluate their own responses with strong U.S. support,” and elaborates on the “four key dimensions of country ownership.” He concludes, “HHS is committed to continue implementing PEPFAR programs in partnership with countries and civil society as they build a sustainable response to global AIDS and work towards achieving an AIDS-free generation” (11/26).
Writing in the Diplomatic Courier Blog, Jaclyn Schiff, communications director for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, examines how “an Obama administration effort to curb reckless spending on events” is “making it harder for American researchers to collaborate effectively with their counterparts in other countries.” She says the policy, issued through a September 2011 memo asking all departments to cut travel spending by 30 percent, prevented Stephen Thomas, director of Walter Reed’s Viral Diseases Branch, from traveling to Atlanta for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s annual conference to present his research on dengue vaccine efficiency (11/23).
“In October 1987, Roy Vagelos, then the chief executive of [pharmaceutical company] Merck, launched the largest pharmaco-philanthropic venture ever,” William Foege, an epidemiologist and former director of the CDC, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece highlighting the company’s efforts to combat onchocerciasis in the developing world through the free distribution of its drug Mectizan. Initially developed to protect dogs against heartworms, Merck found a human version of the drug “could inhibit the microfilaria of onchocerciasis for a year with a single dose,” Foege continues, adding, “Merck said that it would supply the drug as long as it was needed. Extended surveillance has shown this to be one of the safest drugs ever developed.”
“More than one-quarter of people diagnosed with tuberculosis [TB] at a clinic in India’s largest city of 18 million have a strain that doesn’t respond to the main treatment against the disease, according to preliminary data from a new diagnostic being tested,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper obtained “preliminary and not peer reviewed” data from TB clinics in Mumbai, and Puneet Dewan with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation TB program in India “said the WHO and Indian authorities are taking the data seriously because it appears to confirm other studies in recent years of similarly high rates of multi-drug-resistance, in which patients don’t respond to the two most powerful TB medicines.” According to the newspaper, “The WHO and India currently estimate India has about 100,000 of the 650,000 people in the world with multi-drug-resistance” (Anand/McKay, 11/23).
“Cellphones, those tiny gateways to modernity, have recently allowed prostitutes [in India] to shed the shackles of brothel madams and strike out on their own,” the New York Times reports, adding, “But that independence has made prostitutes far harder for government and safe-sex counselors to trace. And without the advice and free condoms those counselors provide, prostitutes and their customers are returning to dangerous ways.” According to studies, “prostitutes who rely on cellphones are more susceptible to HIV because they are far less likely than their brothel-based peers to require their clients to wear condoms,” the newspaper writes. The New York Times says a government program that provided condom advocacy posters in an area traditionally known for its concentration of brothels worked, “[b]ut now that mobile phones are untethering prostitution from brothels, those targeted measures are threatened” (Harris, 11/24).