U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday “announced the members of a High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a U.N. summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development,'” the news service writes (7/31).
The number of confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Uganda has risen to 36, according to a WHO spokesperson, who added the disease remains confined to the rural Kibaale district, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. “A team, led by the CDC, WHO and Uganda’s Ministry of Health, are now on the scene to determine the scope of the outbreak and then control it,” according to the blog (Doucleff, 7/31). CNN’s “The Chart” blog reports that 14 people have died of the disease, which has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate in African outbreaks, according to a WHO fact sheet (7/31).
Inter Press Service examines efforts Laos is taking to improve its maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 470 deaths per 100,000 live births, especially among rural populations that do not have access to health care services. “A majority of the country’s 6.5 million people live in rural communities scattered across this mountainous Southeast Asian nation, and over 80 percent of the women give birth at home, according to studies by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),” the news service writes. “June saw 80 midwives graduate from a special program shaped by the ministry of health, international donors and the UNFPA, … add[ing] to the initial group of 140 midwives who qualified last year,” IPS notes. The news service continues, “And as the community midwives program forges ahead, focus is shifting to more professional care in isolated communities in the mountainous areas and rural lowlands,” with the goal of reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of reducing MMR by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015 (Macan-Markar, 7/31).
“The number of people needing food aid in Zimbabwe will rise by 60 percent this year to 1.6 million, the World Food Programme [WFP] said on Friday, citing an annual assessment carried out by the United Nations and the Zimbabwean government,” Reuters reports (7/27). “The deteriorating food situation, said the WFP, was caused by erratic rainfall and dry spells, limited access to agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer, a reduction in the planted hectarage, poor farming practices and inadequate crop diversification,” VOA News writes (Dube/Zulu, 7/27). “The WFP said its $119 million (97 million euro) aid program, meant to run through to March next year, is facing a $87 million shortfall,” according to Agence France-Presse (7/27). The agency said it plans to import cereals from surrounding countries and provide cash transfers to affected populations to allow them to purchase food, Reuters notes (7/27).
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).