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Guardian Examines Challenges Of Eliminating River Blindness In Africa

The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog “reports on the challenges of eliminating river blindness from Africa by 2025.” “The implications of shift from disease control to elimination are considerable, as has been the case with the objective to eliminate onchocerciasis (better known as river blindness) by 2025, decided by the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) back in 2009,” the blog writes, detailing elimination efforts against the disease since the 1970s. “Together, 20 years of vector control and 25 years of ivermectin treatment have brought onchocerciasis prevalence down to insignificant levels in many countries,” the blog states. However, “the disease still exists,” the blog notes and highlights a number of challenges to achieving elimination, such as raising funds for surveillance efforts and achieving universal treatment coverage due to “a potentially lethal reaction [to the drug] in patients infected with loa-loa, a parasite common in forest areas” (Filou, 12/17).

Opinions Differ On Proposed HIV/AIDS Levies In Uganda

Writing in DevelopmentEducation.ie, Jamie Hitchen of the Human Rights Centre Uganda explores a proposal in Uganda to create “a fund specifically designated to assist projects for HIV and AIDS prevention and protection” that would “generate cash through levies on bank transactions and interest, air tickets, beer, soft drinks and cigarettes, as well as taxes on goods and services traded within Uganda.” He notes, “The revenue generated is expected to be spent on condom distribution, reducing cases of sexually transmitted infections and in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.” However, “reactions from ordinary Ugandans have not been particularly favorable,” he writes, adding, “It’s not been so much about the idea of a HIV and AIDS tax being proposed that is drawing dissent, but it is more revealing of the absence of faith held in the government not to pocket the funds.”

Examining Developing Country Contributions To AIDS Response

“World AIDS Day 2012 offered numerous personal stories in the global fight against HIV and AIDS, but perhaps the most intriguing story, however, was a policy one: How developing countries are making significant contributions to the fight against AIDS in their own countries,” Nicholas Rogacki, a policy fellow with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), writes in the USGLC Blog. “For the first time in the history of the disease, spending by recipient nations to combat AIDS has exceeded spending by donor nations like the United States,” he writes, adding, “While many aid recipient countries have begun to play a larger role in development, there is still much to accomplish in global health and beyond” (12/13).

Conference Addresses Issues Of Innovation For Neglected Diseases

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine this week are hosting a conference in New York, titled “Lives in the Balance: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In a video presentation, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim “told the conference … that the goal is to ‘lay the foundation of a health science that works for the poor,'” according to the newspaper. “That means innovative research on diseases and delivery systems geared to people in developing nations, not the more affluent ones, greater sharing of ideas, and support for developing nations so they can assist in the process from beginning to end,” the newspaper writes (Sell, 12/14).

PlusNews Reviews AVAC Priorities For 2013 HIV Prevention Agenda

“If the world scales-up HIV treatment and prevention in the next two years, a critical tipping point — in which those on treatment outnumber those newly infected with the virus — could be reached, according to the global HIV prevention advocacy organization AVAC,” PlusNews reports. The news service “breaks down the issues likely to top the HIV prevention agenda in the coming year,” including better defining “combination prevention” for country- and local-level needs, preparing for new voluntary medical male circumcision methods, and protecting HIV prevention research funding (12/13).

Though Progress Made, Global Burden Of HIV/AIDS Requires Greater, ‘Better’ Response

“Optimism and momentum has been building around the real possibility that an AIDS-free generation is imminent. … Yet, the most recent estimates of HIV prevalence and incidence and of AIDS-related mortality released by UNAIDS, together with data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 in the Lancet, make it clear that AIDS is not over,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe; Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Mark Dybul, incoming executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, write in a Lancet opinion piece. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 and UNAIDS data “highlight a persistent, significant, and egregious burden of avoidable death,” the authors write, noting global statistics and recent success in reducing the number of AIDS-related deaths and incidence rates worldwide.

Outgoing Rep. Berman Introduces Bill To Reform Foreign Aid With Emphasis On Partnerships

“California Rep. Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, unveiled a 923-page bill on Wednesday that would replace the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 with a framework for providing developmental and economic U.S. aid,” the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports, noting, “Berman’s Global Partnerships Act of 2012 would change the aid system to focus on mutually agreed goals instead of the emphasis on donor-recipient ties, increase accountability and oversight, and eliminate duplication” (Cassata, 12/12). “Aside from this shift from donor-recipient relations to partnerships, the bill proposes a stronger focus on results, the revitalization of [USAID], elevation of human rights in U.S. foreign policy and aid programs, improvement of U.S. capacity to prevent and address conflicts, and expansion of the scope of debt-for-nature programs,” according to Devex’s “Pennsylvania Ave.” blog.

Some Diplomats, U.N. Observers Express ‘Concerns’ Over U.N. Appeal For Haitian Cholera Aid, Al Jazeera Reports

Following U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s announcement on Tuesday of a new initiative appealing for $2.2 billion over 10 years to fight cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Al Jazeera reports “there are concerns by some diplomats and U.N. observers that the funds necessary for the program would not be forthcoming from donors.” As part of the larger appeal covering the island of Hispaniola, in Haiti “[t]he new program dedicates $215 million from donors along with $23.5 million from U.N. funds towards programs in public health, capacity building, public education, and clean water systems,” according to the news service. However, “Haiti will need $500 million over the next two years for its own national cholera plan,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “The funds allocated in the program would therefore cover only one year.”

Will Private Sector Investment In Food Aid Promote Dependency?

Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, writes in a Guardian opinion piece, “In order to support investment in agriculture, governments have … come to rely on private sector investment and development aid — and increasingly a partnership of the two,” and he notes “[t]he New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, proposed by [U.S. President] Barack Obama and the U.S. Agency for International Development and launched in May 2012, will draw more than $3 billion of private sector investment into food security plans in Africa.” He continues, “One potential danger of development aid, and particularly of private-led projects, is that the goals of poverty reduction and rural development can be relegated below the goal of raising food production.”

New Global Disease Burden Data Should Inform Global Health Spending

“On Dec. 14, the Lancet together with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation [IHME] will release their study on global burden of disease, injuries and risk factors in 2010,” Karl Hofmann, president and CEO of Population Services International, writes in a Devex opinion piece, adding, “These ‘gold standard’ data will quantify the world’s health problems by examining statistics for 291 diseases and injuries and 67 different risk factors for 21 regions across three time periods — 1990, 2005 and 2010.” Hofmann says, “The new health burden data are reference points for the units of currency that help us measure our impact, such as on the years of protection against unintended pregnancy, episodes of disease prevented, deaths averted, and years of healthy life saved, among many others.” He adds, “As global health implementers, it is important that these metrics inform our work, define our impact and demonstrate our value to donors, and more importantly, to those we serve.”

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