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).
“Nearly 780 million people are deprived of safe drinking water — and 2.5 billion lack access to improved sanitation — all because governments aren’t spending scarce resources wisely, according to a joint report [.pdf] of the World Health Organization and U.N.-Water,” VOA News reports. Though “more than two billion people gained access to safe drinking water and 1.8 billion gained access to improved sanitation” between 1990 and 2010, billions of people still lack these basic services, the report noted, according to the news service.
IRIN examines how local Zimbabwean farmers’ usage of water containing raw sewage to irrigate their crops poses a risk of disease transmission to people who consume the vegetables. In the capital Harare, less than half of the raw sewage produced is treated before being sent back into tributaries, according to IRIN, which notes, “In a recent report, Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda said 60 percent of the capital’s residents did not have access to clean water, and 10 percent relied on boreholes and unprotected wells.” Since a cholera outbreak in 2008, UNICEF and other international donors have been helping Zimbabwean municipalities treat their water, but the UNICEF program is winding down, leaving some unsure whether local authorities “can go it alone,” IRIN writes (4/16).
Yaws, a skin and bone disease caused by a treponematoses bacterium that can cause long-term deformities, “has recently been put on WHO’s list of 17 so-called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)” and, along with Guinea worm, is “slated for eradication,” the Lancet reports. A “massive push to free the world from yaws failed in the 1950s and 1960s,” and the WHO in 1995 estimated “there were 2.5 million cases of endemic treponematoses (mostly yaws),” according to the Lancet. A study published in the Lancet in January showed a single dose of the antibiotic azithromycin was effective at curing the disease among children, a finding that “jump-started the NTD community into action,” the article states.
“We commend the 130th session of the WHO Executive Board for adopting a resolution calling for a comprehensive response to the global burden of mental illnesses,” Rebecca Hock of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Mental Health, and colleagues, write in this Lancet opinion piece. “The resolution for mental health, led by India, the U.S., and Switzerland, is the result of a crescendo of political support for addressing mental illnesses and received unanimous support from countries on the WHO Executive Board,” the authors write, noting, “The resolution urges countries to protect and promote the rights of persons with mental disorders and to combat stigma against mental illness.”