On Wednesday, several HIV experts spoke at a Capitol Hill briefing “supporting the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program’s reliance on scientific evidence to drive its work to end AIDS,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The speakers, including Diane Havlir of the University of California, San Francisco, RJ Simonds of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Renee Ridzon of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, talked about using antiretroviral treatment as a prevention method, the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision, and preventing HIV among marginalized populations at high risk of infection (Mazzotta, 2/3).
Treatment and Prevention Strategies
AllAfrica.com examines efforts by African researchers to develop a female-controlled HIV prevention method, writing, “[S]cientists searching for a gel or vaccine that can prevent HIV infection ride a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment.” The article profiles efforts by researchers from the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) to find a microbicide gel to protect women from HIV infection.
“The lives of thousands of HIV-positive people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are at risk as the country faces declining donor funding and a severe shortage of HIV treatment, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF),” PlusNews reports. “‘The problem is quite old in the DRC; the country has always been minimized by donors who have not seen it as a priority, mainly because HIV prevalence is relatively low at between three and four percent,’ Thierry Dethier, advocacy manager for MSF Belgium in the DRC, told IRIN/PlusNews,” and he added, “But look at the indicators: more than one million people are living with HIV, 350,000 of whom qualify for [antiretrovirals (ARVs)] but only 44,000 — or 15 percent — are on ARVs,” the news service writes.
Kenya has sufficient funds to support HIV/AIDS treatment programs through 2016, the head of the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) said in a statement on Wednesday after activists protested on Monday in support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Star reports. The Global Fund had to cancel Round 11 grants because “the cash at hand was not in the bank by the time we wanted to disburse,” according to the Fund’s Deputy Executive Director Debrework Zewdie, a move that sparked fears there would not be sufficient funding to pay for existing treatment programs, the Star notes (Muchangi, 2/2). In his statement, NACC head Alloys Orago said, “Though the available fund cushions beneficiaries from immediate effects of donor withdrawal up to 2016, such a move calls for home grown and innovative ways of locally financing the disease,” according to the Daily Nation (2/2).
“Cash-strapped Swaziland is struggling to fund its HIV programs, and experts are warning of long-term damage to treatment and prevention schemes if steps are not taken to ring-fence funding and supplies,” the Mail & Guardian reports. About 200,000 people are living with HIV in Swaziland, nearly one quarter of the population, the newspaper notes, adding, “Until now the government has done well in terms of providing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment — achieving 78 percent coverage, just under the World Health Organization’s ‘universal coverage’ rate of 80 percent. But there are fears that uncertainty about funding streams and weak supply-chain management could result in a reversal of this progress.” The article discusses funding from the government, PEPFAR, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; antiretroviral drug and testing supply problems; and the epidemic’s effect on children and life expectancy in the country (Redvers, 2/27).
“Burkina Faso’s Network for Access to Essential Medicines (RAME) has called on the BurkinabÃ¨ government to increase the budget allocation to the health sector to avoid interruptions to AIDS treatment,” Inter Press Service reports. “Despite an emergency plan announced in January, which will see the government spend around one billion CFA francs — two million dollars — to procure AIDS drugs in this West African country, patients and civil society groups are demanding permanent measures to ensure the availability of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and reagents,” the news service notes.
The Guardian examines the future of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as it enters its second decade, writing, “Despite its staggering successes — including helping put 3.3 million people on AIDS treatment, 8.6 million on anti-tuberculosis treatment and providing 230 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria — the fund’s recent troubles had threatened to overshadow its accomplishments as it prepared to mark a decade as the world’s main financier of programs to fight these three global epidemics.” The news service highlights a $750 million pledge to the Fund by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses recent managerial changes within the Fund, and quotes a number of experts about future challenges (Kelly, 2/2).
“While international attention focuses on Burma, [also known as Myanmar,] a health crisis in the country looms large,” Joe Billiveau, operations manager of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) operational center in Amsterdam, writes in this opinion piece in Bangkok’s Nation. He continues, “An estimated 85,000 people infected with HIV in Burma are not receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART). This is an improvement on previous years, with new momentum in the country to tackle the crisis,” but the cancellation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Round 11 grants “threatens to undo improvements” and prevent the planned scale-up of ART for an additional 46,500 patients and treatment for another 10,000 tuberculosis (TB) patients.
In this post in PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog, Benoy Peter, senior manager for knowledge management at Project Connect in India, reports that the government of India will cover HIV care under insurance in the country beginning in October 2012. Peter recounts the advocacy efforts that went into convincing the Indian government to make the change and writes, “We are excited about the maiden policy change facilitated by PSI/India. Much deserved credit goes to [the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO)], USAID, our partners and a few activists who enlightened by our conference did their parallel lobbying” (2/22).
Proposed Intellectual Property Agreement Between E.U., India Could Affect Generic Drug Exports, Advocacy Groups Say
The Independent examines how “[t]he cheap supply of antiretroviral drugs to people with AIDS across the world could be choked by an ‘intellectual property’ deal … being negotiated [on Friday] at the 12th E.U.-India summit in New Delhi between the President of the European Commission, JosÃ© Manuel Barroso, and the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.”