Writing in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., and Kenneth Cole, CEO of Kenneth Cole Productions and chair of the Board of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, discuss why some CEOs oppose HIV travel bans. “Restrictions based only on positive HIV status deny the entry, stay, residence or work visas for people living with HIV, even though the HIV virus can’t be transmitted through casual contact,” they write, adding, “These laws and policies not only violate human rights and don’t protect the public health, they also harm a business’s bottom line.”
Treatment and Prevention Strategies
“The world has lost momentum in the fight against the AIDS epidemic, with millions of new people infected last year, the ONE foundation said in a report,” titled “The Beginning of the End? Tracking Global Commitments on AIDS” and released on Tuesday, Reuters reports. In its annual report last week, UNAIDS said despite advances in access to medicines that both treat and prevent HIV infection, 2.5 million new cases of HIV occurred in 2011, according to the news service. “That is more than double the target of having only 1.1 million people newly infected each year, said ONE,” according to Reuters.
The U.S. government, and in particular U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby, the head of PEPFAR, “have a unique opportunity to make [the program's] money stretch farther and do more good, at very little cost to U.S. taxpayers: release the reams of data that PEPFAR and its contractors have already collected, at substantial cost — perhaps as much as $500 million each year,” Mead Over, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the Center’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “This would be a first step in what I hope will be [a] 2013 drive to improve the efficiency, the quality and the accountability of the U.S.’s most frequently praised foreign assistance program,” he states. Over goes on to describe the Data Working Group and its recommendations to PEPFAR (11/13).
Objections From India Bar Experts Calling For Global Treaty Against Fake Drug Trade From WHO Meeting
“A group of experts calling for a global treaty to stop the lethal trade in fake medicines has been barred from attending a World Health Organization meeting, highlighting deep divisions that are blocking progress on the subject,” Reuters reports (Hirschler, 11/13). In an analysis published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Tuesday, Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa and colleagues from the World Federation of Public Health Associations, International Pharmaceutical Federation, and the International Council of Nurses “urge the World Health Organization to set up a framework akin to its one [on] tobacco control to safeguard the public,” BBC News writes. The experts “say while governments and drug companies alike deplore unsafe medicines, it is difficult to achieve agreement on action because discussions too often trespass into conflict-prone areas such as pharmaceutical pricing or intellectual property rights,” the news service writes, adding, “Although some countries prohibit fake medicines under national law, there is no global treaty which means organized criminals can continue to trade using haven countries where laws are lax or absent” (Roberts, 11/13).
“As the northern Indian state of Rajasthan rolls out an ambitious universal health care plan, the discontent of the state’s doctors stands in stark contrast to the joys of the 68 million people who will benefit from the scheme,” Inter Press Service reports. “Just a little over a year ago, the state government began supplying free generic drugs to its massive population, effectively stripping doctors of the ability to prescribe more expensive branded medicine,” IPS writes. The news service notes, “Some 350 essential generic drugs are now being distributed free of cost,” and, “[a]ccording to news reports, over 200,000 people are currently taking advantage of the program.”
Writing in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Dereje Bisrat, monitoring and evaluation adviser for the Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), discusses the PEPFAR-funded program, which is administered by USAID and “works with Ethiopia’s Pharmaceutical Fund and Supply Agency (PFSA), nine regional health bureaus, and more than 1,717 health facilities to improve access to HIV/AIDS treatment” in the country. She tells the story of Neima Mohammed, an Ethiopian refugee who, after living in Djibouti for 10 years, returned to her home country to seek treatment through the program, writing, “This story might have ended with Neima’s fateful decline in health. Fortunately, thanks to friends back home, Neima learned Ethiopia was embarking on efforts to provide free antiretroviral treatment to thousands of people living with the disease” (11/6).
IRIN examines how patents and intellectual property protection in South Africa affects patients’ access to medicines. “A form of intellectual property protection, patents are typically awarded to companies that can prove their product is new,” IRIN writes, adding, “Not so in South Africa, say activists and researchers, who claim the country’s patent system allows pharmaceutical companies to apply for new patents on existing drugs based on immaterial changes — like adding table salt to a formulation or changing a pill’s color.” The news service continues, “While pharmaceutical companies cash in, patients face staggering health care costs, and medicines like cancer treatments, third-line antiretrovirals (ARVs) and treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) are often priced out of reach.”
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).
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).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog on Friday published two posts reporting on ID Week, which concluded in San Diego on Sunday. “Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University offered an ID Week presentation Thursday about the impact of treatment on the global epidemic and the new promise of changing the trajectory of the epidemic by scaling up treatment both to save lives and reduce HIV incidence,” the blog writes in the first post, adding, “She reminded her audience that treatment has already had a major impact” (Lubinski, 10/19). “A trio of presentations on HIV, Women and Child Health [on Friday] morning told a story of success in preventing transmission of HIV from parents to children in the United States that has yet to be duplicated in developing countries, of options that could make a difference, and, in a look at the burdens children born with HIV will carry into adulthood, of some of the relatively rarely discussed consequences of gaps in efforts so far,” the blog writes in a second post (Barton, 10/19).