A Lancet series on family planning, published Tuesday, “reviews the evidence for the effects of population and family planning on people’s well-being and the environment,” according to the series’ executive summary (7/10). One study in the series, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, “shows that fulfilling unmet contraception demand by women in developing countries could reduce global maternal mortality by nearly a third, a potentially great improvement for one of the world’s most vulnerable populations,” the New York Times reports (Tavernise, 7/9). A second study, led by John Cleland, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found “[c]ontraceptive use saves the lives of more than a quarter of million women each year, either from death in childbirth or unsafe abortions,” according to Agence France-Presse (7/10).
Programs, Funding & Financing
Agence France-Presse examines a rise in tuberculosis (TB) cases in Madagascar, writing, “Last year alone, 26,700 people contracted TB, according to the health ministry, a jump of more than 16 percent compared with 2009, when a military coup precipitated an economic crisis as donors suspended aid to one of the world’s poorest countries.” The news service notes, “Chronic malnutrition and poverty deepened, contributing to the spike in TB, experts say” and adds, “Even before the political crisis, Madagascar suffered one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.”
HIV Drug Coverage In Sub-Saharan Africa Continues To Improve But Not Sustainable, UNAIDS' Sidibe Says
At the end of 2011, 6.2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were taking antiretroviral drugs, about 56 percent of the people in need in the region, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe noted in an interview last week, saying, “Ten years ago, nobody would have imagined that such a result would be possible,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Sidibe — visiting Paris ahead of the July 22-27 International AIDS Conference in Washington — said he was worried that African countries remained so dependent on foreign help,” the news service states. “With the exception of South Africa, 80 percent of Africans with HIV have access to drugs via funding from outside Africa. This is not sustainable. It’s even dangerous,” he said, according to the news service.
The U.N.’s annual World Economic and Social Survey, released last week, “says it is critical to find new ways to help the world’s poor as pledged cash fails to flow” and “call[s] for a tax on billionaires to help raise more than $400 billion a year for poor countries,” Agence France-Presse reports. “But the U.N. acknowledged that the idea is unlikely to get widespread support from the target group, saying that for now its tax on the unimaginably wealthy remains ‘an intriguing possibility,'” according to the news service. The report provided several other ideas for international taxes to raise money for development efforts and “suggests expanding a levy on air tickets that a number of nations already impose to raise money for drugs for poor states through UNITAID,” which has collected more than $1 billion since 2006, AFP notes (Witcher, 7/6).
In this New York Times opinion piece, columnist Nicholas Kristof examines the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid, writing, “In this election year in the United States, there’ll be bitter debates about what should be cut from budgets, and one thing Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on is that foreign aid is bloated.” He states, “In fact, all foreign aid accounts for about one percent of federal spending — and that includes military assistance and a huge, politically driven check made out to Israel, a wealthy country that is the largest recipient of American aid.” He continues, “On my annual win-a-trip journey with a university student — this year it’s Jordan Schermerhorn of Rice University — we’ve been seeing how assistance changed the course of the AIDS epidemic in Lesotho and Malawi.”
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “tried to deflect controversy” surrounding the London Summit on Family Planning to take place this week, stating that “giving women better access to contraception had become her lifetime’s work,” the Guardian reports (McVeigh, 7/7). “On Wednesday, the Gates Foundation and the British government will convene a summit of world leaders in London with the goal of raising $4 billion to make contraceptives available to an additional 120 million women in the poorest countries,” the Seattle Times notes, adding, “The move puts the Gates Foundation on a collision course with the Catholic Church and elements of the religious right” (Doughton, 7/7). U.K. Minister for International Development Andrew Mitchell supported Gates, saying, “We have to focus on what we know there is widespread support for,” according to the Guardian.
Noting more than 20,000 international HIV researchers and activists will gather in Washington, D.C., for the AIDS 2012 conference later this month, the Associated Press writes that there is “a sense of optimism not seen in many years — hope that it finally may be possible to dramatically stem the spread of the AIDS virus.” “‘We want to make sure we don’t overpromise,’ Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease chief, told the Associated Press,” the news service notes, adding, “But, he said, ‘I think we are at a turning point.”
The Financial Times examines efforts by “Ethiopian policymakers, faced with a rapidly expanding population and rising numbers of HIV/AIDS infections,” to integrate family planning into HIV counseling and testing programs in the country. “When counseling women on reproductive health or child immunization, family planning clinics can also discuss HIV testing and prevention, particularly condom use, as well as introducing pregnant women to mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention services,” the newspaper notes.
Decreasing foreign aid to Afghanistan, a “main point of discussion at an Afghan aid conference in Tokyo on Sunday,” is hurting many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country, forcing them to reduce services or shut down, Reuters reports in an article examining development funding “more than a decade after the Taliban were driven from power by U.S.-led forces.” The news agency notes, “Aid groups warn that fragile gains, such as education for girls — banned by the Taliban — and halving child mortality rates in 10 years, are at grave risk of being lost if financial support dries up.” According to Reuters, “Just under $4 billion is expected to be committed in development aid for the next year,” but “[t]hat amount is sharply down from its peak in 2010, when over $6 billion in development aid was pledged, more than half from the United States” (Arghandiwal, 7/5).
Noting the 2010 reversal of the HIV travel and immigration ban allowing the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) to be held in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) writes in a Huffington Post Blog opinion piece, “It is so exciting to host this conference at such a pivotal time in the history of the AIDS response,” and adds, “At no other time in history has our global leadership been more important than it is right now.” With nearly 25,000 people from about 200 countries expected to gather in Washington, D.C., for the conference July 22-27, “These leaders in the global HIV and AIDS fight will showcase their incredible efforts and achievements on our own soil” and “have the opportunity to develop new solutions in addressing the ongoing challenges posed by HIV/AIDS in our own country and around the world,” Lee writes.