“The World Health Organization heralded major gains Tuesday in the fight against malaria, one of the developing world’s biggest killers, but warned universal access to treatment remains elusive,” Agence France-Presse reports, noting, “The assessment came on the eve of World Malaria Day,” observed Wednesday and “designed to shine the light on the mosquito-borne parasite that killed 655,000 people in 2010, including 560,000 children under five” (4/24). “A massive acceleration in the global distribution of mosquito nets, the expansion of programs to spray the insides of buildings with insecticides, and an increase in access to prompt antimalarial treatment has brought down malaria mortality rates by more than a quarter worldwide, and by one-third in Africa since 2000,” but “simply maintaining current rates of progress will not be enough to meet global targets for malaria control,” the agency writes in a news release (4/24).
In remarks to the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, which on Monday opened a week-long session in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “stressed the need to provide reproductive health care for young people, as well as give them access to the necessary information and the means to protect themselves from sexual abuse and violence,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Ban “underlined the importance of combating HIV/AIDS among youth, lowering the rates of teenage pregnancies, and protecting children from early marriage” the news service writes (4/23). “In order to empower the youth of the world, said Ban, the international community must ensure that they have jobs and resources, including reproductive health care,” Xinhua/Mysinchew.com notes (4/23).
U.N. Calls For Increased Collaboration, Funding To Fight Malaria Ahead Of World Malaria Day On Wednesday
Speaking at a press conference at U.N. Headquarters ahead of World Malaria Day, observed Wednesday, a U.N. envoy on Monday called for “[a]n increase in collaboration and partnerships among donor and recipient countries … to boost efforts to prevent and treat malaria, … while also calling for an increase in funding to combat the deadly disease,” the U.N. News Centre reports. The U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria Ray Chambers “said that although malaria deaths have declined significantly in recent years, there is still much to be done to reach the target of zero deaths by 2015, and countries would need to increase their coordination in addressing the issue,” the news service notes (4/23).
“Kenya’s High Court ruled on Friday that lawmakers must review legislation that could threaten the import of generic drugs, allowing Kenyans to continue accessing affordable medicine,” Reuters reports. In 2009, three people living with HIV filed a lawsuit arguing that the definition of counterfeit drugs in Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Bill of 2008 was too broad and “unconstitutional because it threatened access to life-saving generic medicine by confusing generic and fake medicine,” the news agency notes (4/20).
UNAIDS on Thursday “called on all countries to implement new [WHO] guidelines that encourage couples to go together for HIV testing to ascertain their status” and recommend offering antiretroviral therapy (ART) to people living with HIV who have a partner without HIV, “even when they do not require it for their own health,” the U.N. News Centre reports. UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, “I am excited that with the rollout of these new guidelines, millions of men and women have one additional option to stop new HIV infections. … This development begins a new era of HIV prevention dialogue and hope among couples” (4/19). “Earlier treatment, of course, will need more money for more drugs for more people,” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley writes in her Global Health Blog, adding, “Campaigners will be looking anxiously to the reviving fortunes of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as the prospects for more money for PEPFAR” (4/19).
The Guardian reports that “60 finance and development ministers [will] gather in Washington on Friday at a high-level meeting on sanitation and water.” According to the newspaper, “The Sanitation and Water for All meeting, convened by Anthony Lake, executive director of the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF, follows an announcement in March by UNICEF and the World Health Organization that the world had met the millennium development goal (MDG) overall target for access to safe drinking water in 2010, but that 783 million people were still missing out.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week “called on the global community to act quickly to address what he described as a ‘cascading crisis’ sweeping the Sahel region of West Africa, where 15 million people have been affected by the drought and conflict-related crisis in the area,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking to the Luxembourg Parliament on Tuesday, Ban said, “I call upon the world to respond. Simply put, we must do more — and do it quickly” (4/17). On Wednesday, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake appeared on BBC World News to discuss the drought and malnutrition among children. “Lake tells the BBC’s Jane O’Brien that his organization is trying to fight ‘donor fatigue,’ after years of crises in the region by” portraying the success stories of children in the region and through a social media campaign to raise awareness and funds, the news service notes (4/18).
In a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin writes, “[I]t warms my heart to see that safe motherhood and women’s reproductive health are finally being recognized as important development issues,” but “millions of women in developing countries still lack even the most basic care during pregnancy,” leading to maternal death and injury and hundreds of millions of women lack access to family planning services, including modern contraceptives. “It is inexcusable that in the 21st century motherhood remains so dangerous for so many. It is not only morally wrong but also hampers economic development and the survival and well-being of families, communities and nations,” he writes.
The WHO on Wednesday released its new 54-page “Guidance on couples HIV testing and counselling, including antiretroviral therapy (ART) for treatment and prevention in serodiscordant couples: Recommendations for a public health approach,” according to the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. “Intended for national policymakers and relevant health program managers in low- and middle-income countries with generalized HIV epidemics, the guidelines were set to be released at the International AIDS Conference in Rome last July, but delayed in order to consider results from two clinical trials looking at ART use as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) that showed a strong prevention benefit, as well as the relevance of couples counseling and testing among pairs who are men who have sex with men (MSM) and/or inject drugs,” the blog notes. The guidance “also touches on recent evidence that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with some antiretrovirals taken in discordant couples can help to prevent sexual acquisition of HIV, and notes that the WHO is reviewing this data and hopes to have a ‘rapid advice’ document on PrEP available sometime this year to help guide programs in discordant couples and in MSM communities,” the blog states (Mazzotta, 4/18).
This post on IntraHealth International’s “Global Health Blog” discusses a new report (.pdf) from the WHO, titled “Research and Development to Meet Health Needs in Developing Countries: Strengthening Global Financing and Coordination,” which “concludes that ‘all countries should commit to spend at least 0.01 percent of GDP on government-funded R&D [research and development] devoted to meeting the health needs of developing countries.'” The post states, “The report has a double significance. First, it is a vigorous statement of the need for a binding agreement on health innovation to address diseases that mostly affect developing countries. Second, it is an important concrete step on the long path to it” (Chiscop, 4/13).