“This week, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) is holding a forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health Blog,” noting, “Invited are 700 experts from all the organizations and countries GAVI works with, funding immunization programs across the globe and in some of the poorest places on the planet.” One of the groups, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), “says it is deeply concerned that the current vaccination strategy is not paying enough attention to the one in five babies who go without the most basic immunization, such as DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough) from two months and then measles vaccine, which babies should have at the age of nine months,” Boseley writes, noting the group also says vaccines need to be better designed for use in Africa (12/4). In a press release, MSF notes that three new issue briefs outlining the organization’s “main concerns” are available online (12/4). The first discusses vaccine pricing; the second discusses the development of “easier-to-use” vaccines, and the third discusses vaccine supply and procurement practices (12/4).
Programs, Funding & Financing
In the New York Times’ “Scientist At Work” blog, Alexander Kumar, a physician and researcher at Concordia Station in Antarctica, examines the question of “why humans should venture out to other planets, and perhaps in the process create new problems, when we have so many problems on our own planet,” including HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other “largely preventable and treatable” conditions. Kumar, who is “investigat[ing] the possibility of one day sending humans to Mars” for the European Space Agency, says he is “repeatedly asked … why the human race would invest its precious and finite resources (money) into space exploration?” He continues, “People have presented valid arguments both ways: those against, about depriving the bottom billion of our planet by diverting much-needed funding; and those in favor, for furthering mankind’s now-desperate need for discoveries and new life-saving technology through exploration in space.
This report (.pdf) from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), titled “Competing Pressures for U.S. PEPFAR In Botswana: Rising Ambitions, Declining Resources,” examines how the “partnership will be tested as the United States and Botswana negotiate a complex, multiyear handoff of PEPFAR-supported HIV/AIDS activities and as U.S. financial assistance is reduced,” the report summary states. The summary continues, “Botswana is a good setting in which to see whether an AIDS-free Generation is achievable and to better understand what success might require in terms of policy and programmatic innovations, health planning and management capacity, and costs” (Stash et al., 11/30).
PRI’s “The World” this week features a series examining the challenges of addressing cancer in the developing world. The series, produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, includes radio stories, multimedia features, an interactive map, and infographics, according to the main page. The radio stories examine cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S. (12/3). In an interview with the series’ principal reporter, Joanne Silberner, Lancet editor Richard Horton said, “Cancer is certainly being under-recognized and neglected in low- and middle-income countries. … I think cancer is slowly becoming more recognized but there is a long way to go before it gets the attention it so urgently needs (12/3). On December 5, PRI will host a Facebook chat from 10am-4pm EST that will feature Silberner and cancer researchers and advocates (12/4).
“Many currently believe that U.S. domestic entitlements are too large, but disregard the fact that the PEPFAR program has created a new class of moral entitlements overseas — in the form of four million and counting people receiving U.S.-supported life-sustaining AIDS treatment in low- and middle-income countries around the world,” Mead Over, a senior fellow at the CGD, writes in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog. He continues, “But I think the U.S. has just as much fiduciary and moral responsibility to anticipate and plan for its current and future AIDS treatment entitlements overseas as it does for its much larger Social Security and Medicare entitlements at home,” and adds, “Moving forward, I suggest that the U.S. should figure out how to convert the moral entitlements it has already granted into credible long-term enforceable commitments which are more analogous to the commitments it makes to Social Security beneficiaries in the U.S.” (11/30).
“Global health is changing — both in policy and practice,” Alanna Shaikh, a development consultant and blogger currently working on a USAID-funded health project, writes in an opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog, adding the field is getting “far more attention in the past decade than in the years before,” which “also creates challenges.” Finding ways to prioritize resources and issues can be difficult, she says, but using the “global health perspective is valuable across the board” because it “focuses on linkages — between individuals, communities and nations, and among health topics.”
The Skoll World Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog have co-produced a blog series to answer the question, “What will it really take to end AIDS?” In the first of six posts, Steffano Bertozi, director of HIV in the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, writes, “[D]espite evidence of measurable progress, it’s important to recognize that we still don’t have all of the tools that we need to end AIDS,” therefore “we still have an essential moral obligation to discover, develop and deliver new and better ways to help people protect themselves from HIV infection” (12/3). In another post, Erin Hohlfelder, ONE’s policy manager for health, says with “scaled-up financing, targeted programming, and expanded political will,” as well as “renewed urgency and concerted action, the world can transform the beginning of the end of AIDS from a vision to a reality and chart a course towards ending this pandemic” (12/3).
“The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has signed a new grant agreement [with Tanzania] worth $308 million,” Devex’s “Development Newswire” reports. “The grant, signed Dec. 1, will help provide more than 660,000 Tanzanians access to antiretrovirals, HIV testing and counseling, and other health products for the next three years, according to a press release” from the Global Fund, the news service writes (Ravelo, 12/3). The press release states, “The grant will also allow the country to reach 96 percent of pregnant women with HIV testing and counseling, providing treatment for over 346,000 HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent HIV transmission to their babies by 2015.” The press release adds, “These results are being achieved through close collaboration with Tanzanian partners as well as with the U.S. Government’s PEPFAR program and other donors such as Germany through its bilateral cooperation” (12/1).
“International financial support aimed at counteracting the world’s ‘neglected diseases’ increased by nearly a half-billion dollars over the past five years, according to new research released Monday, but changing funding dynamics could already be having a negative impact on the development of cures for diseases that affect a substantial proportion of the world’s poor,” Inter Press Service reports. “While funding for these diseases had begun to pick up, the new Global Funding of Innovation for Neglected Diseases (G-FINDER) report [.pdf] finds that this assistance has decreased again following the international financial crisis,” the news service writes, adding, “More worrying, funding for research into these diseases remains highly dependent on a tiny number of players,” including the U.S. (Biron, 12/3).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday announced the Obama administration’s “President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation” (.pdf), which calls for a combination of prevention strategies including widespread treatment, “male circumcision, condom distribution and stopping transmission from mother to child,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. The blog notes the document does not describe the cost of the programs (Knox/Doucleff, 11/29). “[T]he global drive for austerity in developed economies, combined with sharp arguments about U.S. government spending, points to potential difficulties” in allocating funding to HIV/AIDS programs, the Daily Beast writes (Zeitlin, 12/1). U.S. “[f]unding for bilateral AIDS was $5.082 billion in fiscal 2012, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the government is currently operating on a continuing resolution based on that amount as the fiscal 2013 budget continues to be debated,” the Wall Street Journal reports, adding, “Sequestration, should that occur, would mean an [across-the-board discretionary] 8.2 percent cut” (McKay, 11/30).