The Associated Press examines access to antiretroviral treatment in Myanmar, which “ranks among the world’s hardest places to get HIV care, and health experts warn it will take years to prop up a broken health system hobbled by decades of neglect.” The country, also known as Burma, has been hindered by decades of rule by a military junta and economic sanctions imposed by developed countries, including the U.S., the AP notes, and writes, “Of the estimated 240,000 people living with HIV [in the country], half are going without treatment.” However, “as Myanmar wows the world with its reforms, the U.S. and other nations are easing sanctions,” the news agency writes, adding, “The Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] recently urged Myanmar to apply for more assistance that would make up the shortfall and open the door for HIV drugs to reach more than 75 percent of those in need by the end of 2015,” as well as medications to fight tuberculosis (TB). The AP details one man’s efforts to obtain antiretrovirals, which are reserved for patients with CD4 cell counts below 150 cells, versus the WHO recommended 350 (Mason, 10/22).
Programs, Funding & Financing
Central African Republic Town Struggling To Provide Health Care Since Withdrawal Of Foreign Companies, VOA Reports
VOA News examines how the 2009 withdrawal of foreign diamond-mining companies from the small town of Carnot in the Central African Republic (CAR) affected the local economy and access to health care for residents. Initially, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) “ran emergency nutrition programs for the first year, but then discovered deeper health problems in the region, including a child mortality rate that is three times above what is considered an emergency level, as well as elevated rates of HIV and tuberculosis,” the news service writes.
The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday posted an infographic that answers such questions as “how many people does WFP feed each year?” and “[h]ow much does that cost and where does it get the money?” According to the infographic, WFP provided 3.6 million tons of food aid in 2011, which is equivalent to the weight of 36 cruise ships, and 71 percent of the food bought came from developing countries (10/23).
In the last of a series of posts on the U.K. Department for International Development’s (DfID) blog examining the department’s work in Malawi, Neil Squires, DfID head of profession for health, looks at the sustainability of the country’s HIV/AIDS program. “Malawi’s success in increasing access to antiretroviral drugs for HIV is highly dependent on donor funding for medicines,” he writes, adding, “Malawi has to actively consider its resource allocation in order to maximize the benefits and the health gained from the limited resources available.” He notes a report commissioned by UNAIDS on Malawi concluded that “unless Malawi can reduce the incidence of new infections, the scale up in access to antiretroviral drugs will not be sustainable in the medium to long term.” He concludes, “This is an important issue for the Government of Malawi, but also for the key donors who have supported the massive scale up in access to drugs, particularly the Global Fund. Malawi will need to maintain high levels of funding from the Global Fund if it is to maintain its supply of antiretroviral drugs” (10/23).
“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).
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).