AllAfrica.com interviews David Brandling-Bennett, deputy director of the malaria program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, about the global malaria response. “The last decade has seen a successful global effort to reduce the toll of malaria — a deadly, mosquito-borne infectious disease,” the news service writes. However, Brandling-Bennett “told AllAfrica that the encouraging progress to reduce and eventually eliminate malaria cannot continue without sustained attention and resources,” the news service writes. According to the interview transcript, Brandling-Bennett discusses research and drug development, barriers to treatment, and funding issues (9/7).
Programs, Funding & Financing
Reuters Examines Challenges To Implementing 'Treatment As Prevention,' Other HIV Prevention Strategies In Current Economic Climate
In an “Insight” feature article, Reuters examines how new information on the prevention benefits of HIV treatment and other strategies, such as male circumcision, “could finally break the back of the AIDS epidemic.” But, “[w]ith some recession-strapped donor countries already struggling to meet their current commitments for treatment and prevention programs, AIDS activists worry that money, and not science, could hold up progress,” the news agency states. “‘The benefits of early detection and treatment have never been more clear, but countries have never been more challenged to provide needed resources,’ Kaiser Family Foundation [President and CEO] Drew Altman said in a statement,” the news service writes. Reuters highlights the results of several studies, discusses the challenges of “treatment as prevention,” and looks at the costs associated with implementing that and other strategies. “One hesitation is that the drugs work so well that people who take them can live basically a normal life, which means countries are on the hook for a lifetime of treatment,” the news service writes, adding, “The challenge is trying to sell the prevention aspect of treatment as cost-effective.” Reuters notes, “HIV/AIDS experts will test these efforts — along with less costly approaches, such as counseling, condom use and circumcision — in as many as 50 studies globally to see how well they work in real-world settings” (Steenhuysen, 9/6).
“[O]ver the past month, [tuberculosis (TB)] has captured high-profile attention from the Washington Post, the New York Times, TIME, NPR, [Agence France-Presse] and other major media, generating big headlines about the rising challenge we face in tackling one of humanity’s oldest and most resilient infectious diseases,” Jan Gheuens, interim director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s TB Program, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Why should we be concerned?” he asks. Gheuens says because the worldwide number of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases is growing; “it costs a lot of money to treat MDR-TB”; and “MDR-TB patients must go through two years of intensive treatment, including daily injections for the first six months.” He concludes, “What’s clear now, more than ever, is that making progress on TB will require a comprehensive approach that includes new and better approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention” (9/6).
“Good news about the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has been sorely lacking these past few years as the organization has faced corruption allegations, financial woes, and internal reform,” a Lancet editorial states. “Yet, despite these challenging times, the Fund remains operational and continues its important work,” it writes, adding, “Last week, it announced that its Board had approved 45 new two-year grants, from 37 countries, totaling $419.2 million.” Noting “[t]he approved projects were part of the Fund’s Transitional Funding Mechanism, established in November 2011 to ensure that essential programs did not face disruption at a time when there was uncertainty about availability of resources,” the editorial continues, “The mechanism is commendable and the funding news immensely welcome.”
In Foreign Policy’s “Passport” blog, Associate Editor Uri Friedman reflects on former President George W. Bush’s efforts against AIDS, highlighting PEPFAR, which he “established in 2003 and which now supports antiretroviral treatment for 4.5 million people around the world.” Friedman quotes former President Bill Clinton, who, speaking at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, said, “I have to be grateful, and you should be too, that President George W. Bush supported PEPFAR. It saved the lives of millions of people in poor countries.” Friedman continues, “[W]hat’s particularly notable about the reference is that, during a convention season designed to draw sharp distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, the two parties have found common ground on at least one point: the success of Bush’s efforts to fight AIDS.”
Ugandan Parliamentarians Threaten To Hold Up National Budget Unless More Funding Committed To Health Care
In Uganda, where “there are fewer than two health workers for every 1,000 people — a level the World Health Organization defines as a severe shortage” — the nation’s parliamentary “social services committee, which has initial oversight of the country’s health budget, pushed a resolution through parliament last week threatening to hold up approval of the entire budget unless funding to recruit and retain new health workers is increased,” VOA News reports. “Committee members, with support from the Women’s Parliamentary Association, called for a specific increase of at least $103 million to the sector,” the news service notes. “In addition to the funding increase, the parliamentarians are calling for an end to a wage freeze for current employees and a ban on recruiting new health workers,” as well as “demanding a supplementary pool of money to improve health care in communities that are particularly short staffed,” according to the news service.
In a 200th anniversary article for the New England Journal of Medicine, Salmaan Keshavjee of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Paul Farmer of Partners in Health “seek to elucidate the reasons for the anemic response to drug-resistant tuberculosis [TB] by examining the recent history of tuberculosis policy,” they write. The authors outline the history of TB drug development and how the disease became resistant to myriad drugs, and write that by the 1970s, “[t]uberculosis, whether caused by drug-susceptible or drug-resistant strains, rarely made even medical headlines, in part because its importance as a cause of death continued to decline in areas in which headlines are written. They continue, “In the United States, federal funding for tuberculosis research was cut; consequently, drug discovery, development of diagnostics, and vaccine research ground almost to a halt.”
In this episode of the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Prosperity Wonkcast,” CGD’s Lawrence MacDonald interviews Amanda Glassman, a senior fellow and director of the global health policy program at the center, about global health funding in “this austere budget climate.” In an accompanying blog post, MacDonald notes “generating ‘value for money’ (VFM) is a top concern for global health funding agencies and their donors, who want the biggest bang for their buck in terms of lives saved and diseases controlled.” According to the blog, the discussion focuses on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, “a multilateral agency that emerged from the G8 meeting process in 2002 when times were better and global health was seen as an area where money could make a difference” (9/5).
Distribution Infrastructure, Effective Education Important For Success Of Micronutrient Powders To Treat Childhood Anemia
In this post in the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog, journalist Sam Loewenberg examines the administration of micronutrient powders as a treatment option for anemia, “one of the most pervasive problems affecting the world’s children, and one that goes largely unaddressed.” “The presence of anemia usually signifies a host of other micronutrient deficiencies that are more difficult to test for,” so micronutrient powders — such as Sprinkles, the original and most common formulation — “contain not just iron, but 15 essential vitamins and minerals, including iodine, zinc and vitamin A,” he writes. “The Copenhagen Consensus, a group of expert economists convened in 2008 to determine the world’s most effective aid interventions, put micronutrient supplements at the top of the list,” he continues, adding, “According to their estimate, the cost of providing vitamin A and zinc to 80 percent of the world’s 140 million children who are lacking them would cost $60 million per year. The benefits of this treatment would be worth more than $1 billion.”
The Washington Post examines how the “discovery of an almost untreatable form of tuberculosis [TB] in India has set off alarm bells around the world and helped spur a dramatic expansion of government efforts to battle the killer lung disease.” The newspaper writes, “For the past decade, a nationwide tuberculosis program involving millions of health workers and volunteers has made slow but significant progress in battling the disease in India and has been hailed as a public health success story,” but “any sense of complacency was dispelled in December when a doctor in Mumbai, Zarir Udwadia, discovered a strain of the disease that did not respond to any of the 12 frontline drugs.”