“Chronic shortages of generic and antiretroviral drugs, stock-outs, high medication costs, and long distances to clinics are some of the hurdles people face in their quest to access essential medicines in Zimbabwe,” PlusNews reports. Since 2009, the national government has not funded “the National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm), which is mandated…
Quality of Care
The Wall Street Journal examines efforts to fight tuberculosis (TB) in Europe, writing, “All along the edges of Western Europe, new and hard-to-defeat strains of tuberculosis are gaining a foothold, often moving beyond traditional victims — alcoholics, drug users, HIV patients — and into the wider population.” The article focuses on the efforts of Estonia to turn the tide against multidrug-resistant TB, saying the country’s success “offers one of the few bright spots globally as the ancient plague mutates into new and more deadly forms.” The newspaper continues, “Indeed, experts say the country, with half the population of Chicago, could be a model for others. But there is one catch: It takes years and some pricey treatments just to gain the upper hand” (Naik, 12/31).
Seattle Times Examines Partnership Between Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Uganda Cancer Institute
The Seattle Times examines a partnership between the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). In 2008, “the two institutes formally agreed to collaborate on clinical care and research projects, and more recently a major building project at Uganda’s only cancer-research center,” the newspaper writes. Corey Casper, director of the UCI/Fred Hutchinson Research Center Cancer Alliance, “says [the partnership] has the potential to demonstrate ‘that you can do first-rate research that can alter the impact of cancer care in the developing world, and that the craft of oncology can be practiced as well in Africa as it is in the developed world, just like it is with HIV,’” according to the Seattle Times (Silberner, 12/16).
“On Thursday (Dec. 14), [Nigeria] signed five grant agreements with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” with some of the money going “to provide for antiretroviral therapy treatment and prevention services, particularly on mother-to-child HIV transmission,” Devex’s “The Development Newswire” blog reports. Of the total $335 million, $265 million will go toward HIV/AIDS activities, while $70 million will be used for TB initiatives, the blog notes (Ravelo, 12/14). “For Nigeria, [the] grant agreements address a tremendous need: Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV in the world and only 30 percent of people requiring HIV treatment are receiving antiretroviral therapy,” a Global Fund press release states (12/13).
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).
The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog” examines efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa, where “cervical cancer kills large numbers of women, many of whom are never diagnosed because local hospitals do not recognize the disease until it is too late.” However, “[a] very simple and cheap form of screening has begun to be introduced — and now there is the possibility of a vaccination program against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes most cervical cancers,” the blog writes, noting a recent announcement by the GAVI Alliance that it plans to fund HPV immunization programs in several countries. According to the blog, “15 countries [are] asking to be considered,” and “Uganda and Rwanda have already been approved, although some ‘clarifications’ are required from the governments on how their programs will run.” The blog continues, “No one believes it will be easy to introduce the HPV vaccination in Africa, and there may be problems,” including issues with efficacy and cost (Boseley, 12/14).
IRIN examines efforts to recruit Madagascar’s traditional midwives, called “matronnes,” to “a campaign to get women to deliver in clinics or hospitals, part of a move to lower maternal and newborn death rates.” The country, which has the highest adolescent fertility rate in Africa, has a “moderately high” maternal mortality ratio, despite having “dropped from 710 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 240 per 100,000 live births in 2010,” the news service notes. IRIN describes how health centers and non-governmental organizations are working to provide better maternal and newborn health care by convincing traditional midwives to accompany women in labor to clinics, where skilled birth attendants can attend to them (12/12).
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features two posts on maternal health in Ethiopia. In the first, Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes about her trip to the country to “observe Save the Children’s work with frontline health workers.” She writes, “Ethiopia, a country of 84 million and one of the world’s poorest according to the World Bank, is working diligently to save the lives of women and children; and it’s doing it with the help of an army of thousands of women.” James notes, “The Ethiopian government has trained over 38,000 health extension workers (HEWs) since 2003 — all women” (12/11). In the second post, Tesfaye Arage, a nurse in Ethiopia with Marie Stopes International, notes the WHO recently released guidelines (.pdf) on tasksharing on maternal and newborn health care, and he describes how his team in Ethiopia is implementing tasksharing methods (12/11).
As part of its ongoing series, titled “The State of AIDS,” GlobalPost published two articles examining the epidemic in different regions. In Eastern Europe, rates of HIV/AIDS diagnoses have risen in several countries, including Ukraine and Russia, according to the first article, which discusses some of the potential reasons for the increases. Also, “with the economic crisis affecting much of Western Europe, there is concern that declining health spending and cuts to research budgets could hurt AIDS treatment across the continent, even in nations that are leading the way in HIV/AIDS prevention and care like the United Kingdom,” the news service writes (Ames, 12/7).
The Lancet examines Indonesia’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality, one of the Millennium Development Goals President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has identified as a national priority. Indonesia’s risk of maternal death is one in 150, compared with one in 4,000 in developed nations, and the government has set a goal of reducing mortality to 102 for every 100,000 live births by 2015, one-quarter of the rate in 1990, according to the journal. Gita Maya Koemara Sakti, recently appointed as director of maternal health, explained the Ministry of Health “has adopted a four-step plan that starts with bolstered family planning campaigns,” the Lancet writes. Other efforts include providing free maternal health care through the national social assistance system, improving the national midwifery program, and providing more funding to rural health clinics, the journal notes. The Lancet includes quotes from other government officials and non-governmental organization representatives regarding these efforts and the challenges faced (Webster, 12/8).