Ahead of the London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, Gary Darmstadt, head of the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examines barriers to contraceptive use in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Poor collaboration in recent years means that donors have not been aligned and, as such, there has been inadequate, inconsistent and unpredictable funding for family planning programs globally,” he states, adding, “The other recurring theme of existing barriers is the lack of information at all levels — global, national, and community level — about the health benefits of planning and spacing children and the available methods to do that.” He concludes, “[U]nderstanding the problem and barriers to planning a family is the first step in establishing an ambitious yet achievable goal and mobilizing the global community behind it” (7/5).
Programs, Funding & Financing
NPR’s “All Things Considered” examines HIV/AIDS treatment progress in developing countries, where the high cost of the “triple-drug regimens that were routinely saving the lives of patients in wealthier countries,” and logistical issues, such as ensuring patients would take their medication on time, led some experts to say HIV treatment was “impossible” in the earlier years of the epidemic. “But in fact, in places like Uganda and Haiti, some intrepid doctors were showing that the then-costly AIDS drug cocktails could save lives there, too,” according to the program, which profiles Francois St. Ker, a 44-year-old AIDS patient in Haiti who “was on the brink of death from AIDS when the American doctor Paul Farmer started treating him with new HIV drugs” in 2001.
Obama Administration Announces GHI Office Closure, Says Work Will Move To Office Of Global Diplomacy
The Obama administration on Tuesday announced the closure of the Global Health Initiative (GHI) office, and GHI Executive Director Lois Quam told GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog in an interview that the office’s work is being “elevated” to the State Department’s Office of Global Diplomacy, a move that “lifts up the GHI to the highest levels of diplomacy in the U.S. government,” she said (Donnelly, 7/3). In a joint message released on Tuesday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, and Quam provided an update on the next phase of GHI, saying, “At the State Department, the GHI Office (S/GHI) will close and the Office of Global Health Diplomacy (S/GHD) will be stood up.” According to the joint statement, GHI “will continue as the priority global health initiative of the U.S. Government” and “will continue to function with a collaborative leadership structure headed by the three core entities — USAID, CDC, OGAC — and with the enduring mandate of ensuring the GHI principles are implemented in the field to achieve our ambitious GHI goals” (7/3).
Philippines Experiencing Increasing Number Of New HIV Cases; Leaders Say Country Should Reconsider Policies
“At a time when many countries are seeing their HIV infection rates level off or decline,” health officials in the Philippines “have seen an unexpected surge in cases in the past several years, with a more than five-fold increase between 2007 and 2011, with 2,349 new cases last year,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Southeast Asia Real Time” blog reports, noting, “The total number of cases as of April 2012 is 9,396, compared to just 3,061 in 2007.” The blog continues, “Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of the unexpected increase. Either way, domestic and international HIV experts have been warning for a while that the Philippines has all the necessary ingredients for an HIV epidemic,” including low condom use, communities where multiple sexual partners or sex workers are widespread, and workers who travel overseas, “often in jobs or in regions that have relatively high rates of infection.”
Noting “the United States wants to accelerate the pace of male circumcisions to support 4.7 million procedures in the developing world by the end of next year, up from one million at the beginning of this year,” GlobalPost, as part of its AIDS Turning Point special report, examines the adult male circumcision campaign in Swaziland. “Based on evidence from other African countries that female-to-male transmission of the virus can be reduced by 60 percent if men are circumcised, PEPFAR last year added an additional $15.5 million in funding for an ambitious ‘accelerated saturation initiative’ to circumcise 80 percent of HIV-negative men between ages 15 and 49” in Swaziland, GlobalPost notes, adding, “A year later, 23 percent had undergone the procedure.”
An exhibit highlighting the global health work of Seattle-area institutions is opening Tuesday in the Next 50 Plaza at Seattle Center, the Seattle Times reports. According to the newspaper, the free exhibit, called “Global Health Experience,” “was organized by the Washington Global Health Alliance, an umbrella group of organizations and companies in the Seattle area focused on global health,” and “is built around the stories of four people in developing countries who have benefited from medical advances in the Seattle area: Aisha, a Ugandan girl whose mother faces cervical cancer; Ishmael, a Honduran man with diabetes; Wande, a woman in Tanzania whose daughter contracts malaria; and Archana, an expectant mother in India” (Meyer, 7/2).
Though Indonesia is “widely seen as a development success story — indeed, it is sometimes referred to as one of Asia’s ‘rising powers’ … in the area of maternal health, the successes have been modest and much remains to be done,” Andrew Rosser, associate director of the Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, writes in an Inside Indonesia opinion piece. “Indonesia is on track to meet many of these goals,” including those related to poverty, child nutrition and mortality, education, and tuberculosis and malaria, “[b]ut it is well off track when it comes to goals related to maternal health,” he states. The country also is “failing to meet its targets on the use of modern methods of contraception and reducing the ‘unmet need’ for family planning — that is, the proportion of couples who want to limit the number of children they have but do not have access to contraception,” Rosser notes.
The London Summit on Family Planning, co-sponsored by the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with support from UNFPA and other partners, is scheduled to take place next week. The following blog posts address the summit and the issue of family planning.
New World Bank President Says Institution Open To Assisting High-Income Countries But Gives No Indication Of Refocusing
On his first day on the job, the World Bank’s new president, Jim Yong Kim, said Monday “that the institution would be open to offering technical assistance to crisis-plagued high-income countries like Greece,” the New York Times reports (Lowrey, 7/2). While Kim “emphasized that his top priority would be to protect developing nations at a ‘pivotal moment’ for a world economy that is losing steam rapidly, he said the bank could also deploy its technical know-how to help richer nations with structural problems,” Reuters writes (Wroughten, 7/2).
Philippines To Spend Nearly $12M On Contraceptives To Bolster Family Planning, Reduce Maternal Mortality Rate
The government of the Philippines plans to spend nearly $12 million on contraceptives this year in an effort to “save its ‘failed’ family planning program and drastically cut maternal deaths,” according to the Department of Health, IRIN reports. However, “[i]t is a controversial decision that even public health officials and family planning advocates admit may not be carried out by local officials wary of angering the [Catholic] Church or losing the votes of Catholic supporters,” the news service writes. In addition to purchasing and distributing condoms, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills, and other contraceptives “on a large scale for the first time in largely underfunded community centers across the country,” health officials say the plan “is aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, which went from just 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 in 2011 — a rise [of] 35 percent — according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey,” IRIN notes.