“It’s not much of a surprise that Monday night’s presidential debate, which focused on foreign policy, was consumed by a discussion of defense spending, and security and trade policies,” but “it’s still disappointing that both [President] Barack Obama and [Republican presidential nominee Gov.] Mitt Romney were relatively silent on issues like global health, research, and international aid,” Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) Communications Officer Kim Lufkin writes in the GHTC’s “Breakthroughs” blog. She summarizes some “brief mentions during the debate season of the role of science and technology,” including some media coverage of the lack of mention of global health. “With the election now less than two weeks away … it seems increasingly unrealistic that either candidate will offer up much on global health, research, or other development topics soon,” she writes, concluding, “But no matter what the outcome is in two weeks, the next president must demonstrate more support for global health and foreign aid than the candidates displayed during Monday night’s debate” (10/24).
Programs, Funding & Financing
Writing in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Claire Panosian Dunavan, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles, reflects on the Global Health Service Partnership, a new public-private partnership launched by Vanessa Kerry, daughter of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) “to boost the education of doctors and nurses in sub-Saharan Africa.” She asks, “Will it fly? Or — to put it more bluntly — is global health still tugging at American heartstrings?” She highlights the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park last month, a five-hour concert sponsored by the Global Poverty Project that “drew 60,000 attendees and millions of dollars for health issues ranging from maternal care to mosquito nets to wiping out polio” and draws comparison to Bob Geldof’s 1985 “Live Aid” concert, which she says “reached nearly two billion people in 150 countries via broadcasts and satellite links” and “marked a milestone in global health awareness.”
Noting a recent U.N. study (.pdf) showed that, despite progress on tackling child mortality globally, sub-Saharan Africa “is trailing far behind,” David Dominic, a consultant for non-governmental organizations, writes in this Huffington Post U.K. opinion piece, “[T]he more we look, the more it seems that the U.K. aid system, with regards to sub-Saharan Africa, is carefully designed to control and exploit the region, with scant regard for the impacts upon the poor. That is, aid seems to be used as a tool of modern imperialism.” He continues, “This is significant to us in the U.K. because sub-Saharan Africa is the region which has received most aid from the U.K. over the last few decades and is also where the U.K. has had the most influence.”
Oxfam Says 'No Evidence' AMFm Has Saved Lives; Global Fund Says Claims Are 'Untrue,' Guardian Reports
Noting “[t]he U.K. government has contributed Â£70 million [$112 million] to the Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria (AMFm),” the Guardian reports, “The charity Oxfam has cast doubt on [the] international scheme that aims to boost the provision of the most effective treatment for malaria.” According to the newspaper, “Oxfam says there is no evidence the program has saved the lives of the most vulnerable people” and “has criticized it as ‘risky and dangerous.'” But “[t]he body behind the AMFm says an independent study shows it has improved access and reduced drug prices,” and “[t]he Global Fund said Oxfam’s claims were ‘simply untrue,'” the Guardian writes, adding, “A DfID spokesman said: … ‘Studies have shown that quality drugs have got through to remote areas — and that more vulnerable groups, including children under five in rural areas and from the poorest backgrounds, are now being reached'” (Dreaper, 10/24).
“Construction has begun on Ethiopia’s National Public Health Training Center, the first of its kind to be established in the country at a cost of $4 million,” Malaysian News Agency Bernama reports, noting, “The U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) committed to the cost of the project, while the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will manage the construction of the ground and three facilities which are expected to be completed by April 2014” (10/23). “It will be the first national training center for health, according to the press statement from the United States Embassy in Ethiopia,” according to New Business Ethiopia, which adds, “The new national public health training center will be a state-of-the-art facility that will act as a training and support hub for Ethiopia’s national public health monitoring, research, and laboratory network” (10/23).
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has published a special issue of its “Polio News” bulletin in recognition of World Polio Day on October 24. The issue includes several articles examining global eradication efforts and calls for readers to become a part of the day by joining “the world’s biggest commercial” or by downloading an action pack (October 2012).
In the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, notes that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the XIX International AIDS Conference in July that all women should be able to decide “when and whether to have children” and that PEPFAR, in a guidance [.pdf] released last week, said, “Voluntary family planning should be part of comprehensive quality care for persons living with HIV,” and referred to family planning as a human right. “Then, in bold type, they punctuated it with, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities,'” she writes. “They take it a step further with a caveat that before anyone decides they’d like their program to have anything to do with family planning, they had best consult relevant U.S. legal counsel first,” she adds. “To be fair, they do say that PEPFAR programs can just refer women to a different program that offers family planning,” but those programs are not always available, Sippel writes, adding, “So the suggestion is flawed from the start.”
Noting that the Global Health Initiative (GHI) leadership and the three core entities of GHI — USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and PEPFAR — announced the closure of the GHI office and an end to the initiative’s current phase on July 3, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog that “the three agencies will be responsible for ensuring that the GHI principles are implemented in the field to achieve global health goals.” She continues, “A focus on the GHI principles — especially principles of health sector integration, equal rights for women and girls, country ownership, and health systems strengthening — is indeed necessary to ensure U.S. global health programs are effective. The principles are the most important piece of GHI, and what has given global health advocates optimism since it was launched in 2009.”
“Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a group of global leaders, including [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair] Bill Gates and heads of state of polio-affected countries, to renew the commitment to eliminate polio,” William Keenan, executive director of the International Pediatric Association, and Robert Block, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, note in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “This show of solidarity reminds us that the fight is not finished,” they write, and continue, “Armed with effective vaccines, pediatricians, partner organizations and front-line workers around the globe have eliminated 99 percent of all new polio cases.” They state, “We can’t afford to lose sight of this remaining one percent of polio cases.”
The Kansas City Star examines HIV education and care in Egypt, where “the Ministry of Health says there are 2,700 cases, but the true number is estimated conservatively at more than four times that — and growing.” The newspaper writes that while “HIV education has become an international cause throughout Africa, where the rate of infection devastated many sub-Saharan nations but is being brought under control by concerted efforts on prevention and treatment,” similar efforts “are largely nonexistent in North Africa and the Middle East, and AIDS activists now worry that the rise of a conservative Islamic government in Egypt, where former longtime Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi became the country’s first democratically elected president over the summer, will make matters worse.”
“The U.N. is leading the AIDS education effort here, and there have been efforts by individuals to bring attention to the issue,” the Star notes, adding, “According to one survey, 57 percent of doctors here think that HIV can be transmitted through a mosquito bite, according to a footnote in a U.N. report,” and “[m]any patients, unaware of the symptoms or risks, learn only by chance that they’ve been infected, when a blood test required for a visa or a medical procedure comes back positive.” The newspaper writes, “Ehab Abdel Rahman, the director of the HIV program at the Ministry of Health, balks at the suggestion that Egypt isn’t doing enough. … The blame, he said, lies with patients who try to diagnose and medicate themselves.” But “Omnia Kamal, a Morsi adviser on women’s issues and a member of the committee that’s charged with drawing up the country’s new constitution, offers a different view. In a nation plagued with economic programs and a litany of social issues, AIDS is not a priority, she said” (Youssef/Ismail, 10/22).