Bloomberg Businessweek reports that “[c]ircumcision is in the spotlight again after a German court ruling has pitted those who support it for religious and health reasons against those who say boys should have the right to decide for themselves” and discusses how the procedure’s role in “helping prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa” is “[l]ost in the debate.” According to the news service, “Circumcision is picking up in Africa as a pragmatic health measure to ward off disease,” including HIV, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV). “Some mild adverse effects may occur, especially when circumcision is done when the patient is older or when the practitioner hasn’t been properly trained, according to a review of more than 50 studies published in 2010,” which also found severe complications are uncommon, the news service writes. Bloomberg examines circumcision policies and laws of the WHO and several countries (Wainer/Bennett, 7/29).
In this post in the Human Rights and HIV/AIDS “Now More Than Ever” blog, Michel Kazatchkine, the former executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and newly-appointed special envoy to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, examines why human rights are “so central to the AIDS response.” He writes, “An urgent mobilization is needed to respond to the epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including much greater attention to, and involvement of marginalized and criminalized populations, particularly people who use drugs, sex workers, and gay men and other men who have sex with men,” adding, “As Special Envoy, I will continue to speak out loudly and clearly about the need to devote much greater attention to human rights. And I pledge to listen to the voices of those who too often are excluded” (7/26).
Ahead of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, the WHO “announced on Wednesday measures to fight the ‘hidden epidemic’ … which kills more than one million people a year,” Agence France-Presse reports. The virus “affects 500 million people worldwide but can go unnoticed for years and even decades,” the news service reports (7/25). “‘The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis are unaware, undiagnosed and untreated,’ said Dr. Sylvie Briand, of the [WHO] Pandemic and Epidemic Disease Department. ‘Only by increasing awareness of the different forms of hepatitis, and how they can be prevented and treated, can we take the first step towards full control of the disease and save thousands of lives,'” the U.N. News Centre notes (7/25).
“For the first time in many years, a new message is on the lips of the people on the frontlines [of the AIDS response] — together, we will end AIDS,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Living” blog. He notes, “Just a decade ago, this very thought would have been dismissed,” and asks, “What has changed? Where has this hope come from?” He writes, “It comes from the resilience and steadfastness of the global community, led by people living with HIV, grandmothers, sisters, brothers, mothers, doctors, nurses, scientists, activists to halt the AIDS epidemic from defining our lives.” He provides a recap of the global response, highlighting results, investments, scientific progress, and the protection of human rights, and continues, “Above all, it is people who have changed the face of the AIDS epidemic.” He concludes, “We can end AIDS. We will end AIDS” (7/25).
AIDS 2012 Plenary Speakers Call For Expanded Efforts To Provide HIV Treatment, Prevention To Women, Children
AIDS experts speaking at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) on Wednesday called for an expansion of HIV care and treatment to all women instead of focusing only on those who are pregnant, the Associated Press reports. While many countries have programs to treat pregnant women with HIV infection with antiretroviral treatment (ART) to lessen the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, UNICEF Senior Programme Adviser Chewe Luo said at the plenary session that most countries do not continue providing ART after mothers wean their infants, the news service notes, adding, “She praised Malawi for starting to do just that” through a treatment initiative called Plan B+ (Neergaard, 7/25). According to the Guardian, the plan would add an additional $300 million to global treatment costs, but “people with HIV on treatment become far less likely to infect their partners, as well as their babies, so the additional outlay may be considered a good investment.” Luo said discussions with PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria about funding such programs are underway, the newspaper notes (Boseley, 7/25). In a satellite session on Tuesday, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe “commended countries and their international partners for recent progress in preventing new HIV infections among children and saving mothers’ lives,” health-e news reports (7/25).
“Much still needs to be done to get treatment to those who need it and to meet the UNAIDS-endorsed goal to achieve universal access by 2015, according to a new survey [.pdf] examining 25 HIV indicators assessing strategies, tools and policies to get the best HIV treatment to more people, sooner,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Mazzotta, 7/24). The report by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), in collaboration with UNAIDS, “show[s] that governments have made improvements to get better antiretroviral treatment (ART) to more people, but implementation of innovative community-based strategies is lagging in some countries,” according to an MSF press release (7/24).
Though “a massive 24-year global effort to eradicate [polio] forever is now within striking distance of its goal, … there is still a very real danger that the entire campaign could come undone,” Jay Winsten, associate dean at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Emily Serazin, a principal in the Washington, D.C. office of the Boston Consulting Group, write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. The campaign to eradicate the disease faces geopolitical challenges, “[b]ut the biggest danger faced by the campaign is a dramatic funding shortfall of $945 million — almost half the amount originally budgeted for 2012-13,” they write. “The challenges faced by the polio campaign are emblematic of problems that affect worldwide efforts to conquer vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough,” Winsten and Serazin state and note that a Global Vaccine Action Plan was recently compiled by a huge collaborative effort and endorsed by the World Health Assembly. “With sufficient funding and political will, the massive health and economic benefits of vaccines are indeed attainable,” they conclude (7/24).
Though the level of humanitarian needs in 2011 was lower than the previous year, “38 percent of appeals for financing made by the U.N. went unmet,” according to the Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) Report 2012,” the Guardian reports. “The U.N. had requested $8.9 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of 62 million people [in 2011] … compared with an appeal for $11.3 billion to help 74 million people in 2010. Nonetheless, it received only $5.5 billion of its 2011 request,” the newspaper notes. “The GHA 2012 report said aid had gone to recent larger humanitarian disasters at the expense of small, less high-profile crises,” the Guardian states (Mead/Bakosi, 7/20).
RECENT RELEASE: U.N. Secretary-General Appoints Special Envoy For HIV/AIDS In Eastern Europe, Central Asia
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday “appointed Michel Kazatchkine as his Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, one of only two regions in the world where HIV is continuing to grow,” a U.N. press release states. “Michel Kazatchkine is an internationally recognized physician who has devoted 30 years of his professional life to the AIDS response,” the press release notes, adding that he has served as executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and director of the French National Agency for AIDS Research (7/20).
“U.S. legislators are appealing to the United Nations to take a greater role in addressing Haiti’s cholera outbreak, now in its third year and which has left thousands dead,” Inter Press Service reports. “In a letter addressed to U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice, 104 U.S. members of Congress urged Rice to help step up U.N. concern over the outbreak,” the news service writes. “‘It is imperative for the U.N. to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic,’ Representative John Conyers, Jr. [D-Mich.] wrote,” adding, “A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths … [but] will pose a permanent public health threat,” IPS notes (Freedman, 7/20).