Several articles published on Tuesday examine tuberculosis (TB) in South Africa. “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the country has the highest rate of new TB cases annually,” VOA News writes, adding, “Thousands of people in South Africa continue to be infected by a disease that’s been virtually eradicated in the developed world.” The news service discusses TB among children in the country and notes, “The WHO says every year at least 500,000 babies and children become infected with TB worldwide and an estimated 70,000 die of it — many in South Africa, India and China” (Taylor, 6/19).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog profiles Bernard Rivers, founder and executive director of Aidspan, a watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, who is leaving his position after 10 years. “He will not be running Aidspan anymore, but plans to continue to research and write about Global Fund issues,” the blog states. In the blog, Rivers discusses his motivation behind founding Aidspan and his hopes for the future of the Global Fund (Barton, 8/30).
U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Terence McCulley spoke on Monday in Abuja at the inauguration of a Defense Reference Laboratory, Leadership reports, noting he said the laboratory, “which is the first of its kind in the sub-region,” was supported by U.S. funding. According to the newspaper, McCulley said the Reference Laboratory Program is part of U.S. assistance to Nigeria through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and Nigeria’s Ministry of Defense (NMOD) through the Walter Reed Program (WRP-N) and the Emergency Plan Implementation Committee (EPIC), which began in 2005 (8/30).
In a study published on Wednesday in the Lancet, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “[a]mong 1,278 patients who were resistant to two or more first-line tuberculosis drugs in Estonia, Latvia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand, 43.7 percent showed resistance to at least one second-line drug,” which “suggest[s] the deadly disease may become ‘virtually untreatable,'” according to the study, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Kitamura/Narayan, 8/29). “In about a fifth of cases, they found resistance to at least one second-line injectable [versus oral] drug,” according to Reuters, which states “[t]his ranged from two percent in the Philippines to 47 percent in Latvia.” Overall, 6.7 percent of patients had extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), meaning patients are resistant to the first-line drugs isoniazid and rifampicin as well as drugs in the fluoroquinolone antibiotic class and a second-line injectable antibiotic, Reuters adds, noting “[r]ates in South Korea, at 15.2 percent, and Russia at 11.3 percent, were more than twice the WHO’s global estimate of 5.4 percent at that time” (Kelland, 8/30).
“The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved 45 new two-year grants, from 37 countries, totaling $419.2 million, to fund essential prevention, treatment, and care services provided to the people affected by the three diseases,” according to a Global Fund press release. “Another 11 proposals worth a total of $91.2 million were sent back for revision, and are subject to a further independent technical review before they can be approved,” the press release adds, noting the grant approvals are part of the Transitional Funding Mechanism and “will bridge the financing of essential interventions until the next opportunity to apply for grants” (8/28). According to the U.N. News Centre, the Global Fund “has approved funding of $22.9 billion for more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries, and helped programs provide AIDS treatment for 3.6 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 9.3 million people, and 270 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria” (8/28).
A new analysis from amfAR (.doc), The Foundation for AIDS Research, “estimates potential human impacts of funding changes [in global health programs] proposed in the President’s fiscal year 2013 budget request when compared to current operating budget levels (fiscal year 2012).” President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request includes a decrease in funding for PEPFAR and an increase in funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to the analysis, which concludes, “Taken together, proposed changes in funding for the Global Fund and PEPFAR could lead to significant reductions in lifesaving AIDS treatment delivery, services to orphans and other vulnerable children, prevention of vertical HIV transmission (from mother-to-child) services, and HIV testing services that could otherwise have been delivered with flat funding for PEPFAR” (April 2012).
South Africa’s recently released “National Strategic Plan on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Tuberculosis (TB) 2012-2016” “marked an important milestone” in the nation’s fight against infectious diseases, a Lancet editorial states. “The plan [.pdf] has several broad goals: to reduce new HIV infections by at least 50 percent; to start at least 80 percent of eligible patients on antiretroviral treatment; to reduce the number of new tuberculosis infections and deaths by 50 percent; to ensure a legal framework that protects and promotes human rights to support implementation of the plan; and to reduce self-reported stigma related to HIV and tuberculosis by at least 50 percent,” the editorial notes.
“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).
“Multidrug-resistant [tuberculosis (TB)] is at epidemic proportions in some parts of the world — a growing problem the U.S. is surprisingly unprepared for,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Noting “[t]he U.S. beat back multidrug-resistant tuberculosis [MDR-TB] in the 1990s,” the newspaper continues, “Today, however, a new threat is emerging as drug resistance worsens abroad and far more dangerous strains develop and spread, including some that are all but untreatable with standard drugs.” The Wall Street Journal examines reasons behind a resurgence of MDR-TB in the U.S., treatment and control efforts, and how “funding and expertise are in decline” (12/19).
In the New York Times’ “Scientist At Work” blog, Alexander Kumar, a physician and researcher at Concordia Station in Antarctica, examines the question of “why humans should venture out to other planets, and perhaps in the process create new problems, when we have so many problems on our own planet,” including HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other “largely preventable and treatable” conditions. Kumar, who is “investigat[ing] the possibility of one day sending humans to Mars” for the European Space Agency, says he is “repeatedly asked … why the human race would invest its precious and finite resources (money) into space exploration?” He continues, “People have presented valid arguments both ways: those against, about depriving the bottom billion of our planet by diverting much-needed funding; and those in favor, for furthering mankind’s now-desperate need for discoveries and new life-saving technology through exploration in space.