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USAID Blog Examines Structural Issues Fueling HIV Epidemic

“During the recent [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)] in Washington, D.C., exciting breakthroughs in HIV prevention, treatment, and care — even a possible cure — took center stage,” but, “despite recent advances, many men and women remain at risk of HIV as a result of structural issues that fuel and have an impact on the epidemic,” Molly Fitzgerald, technical advisor for AIDSTAR-One, writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact Blog.” “Addressing gender inequality, poverty, stigma, and other social, economic, cultural, and legal factors is necessary to create an ‘enabling environment’ for these promising biomedical and behavioral interventions,” she continues, noting, “There is increasing agreement worldwide that structural issues are too often overlooked where HIV prevalence remains high” (8/16).

Haitian Government Hires Former Clinton Administration Official To Discuss Cholera Epidemic With Members Of U.S. Congress

“The Haitian government has hired a one-time Clinton administration official seeking to influence U.S. officials who pledged $3 billion after a 2010 earthquake devastated the impoverished nation’s capital,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “Walter Corley, a former U.S. trade official, said Wednesday that he has been focusing on efforts to stem a cholera outbreak since he was hired by Haiti in April on a one-year contract that pays $5,000 a month,” the news service writes. According to AP, “Corley said he has discussed the cholera epidemic with members of Congressional Black Caucus, including Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Maxine Waters of California” (8/15).

U.S. Military Medical Team Supports HIV Prevention Efforts In Botswana

In an article on the U.S. Department of Defense webpage, the American Forces Press Service reports on how a U.S. military medical team is helping the Botswana Defense Force “to promote Botswana’s national program of education, HIV screening and male circumcision surgeries to stem what’s become a national epidemic,” according to Army Col. (Dr.) Michael Kelly, an Army Reserve surgeon deployed in Botswana from the Army Reserve Medical Command in Washington. “The Botswana Ministry of Health’s goal, Kelly said, is to bring the number of new HIV diagnoses to zero by 2016, … an ambitious plan, in light of an HIV rate that has skyrocketed since the first case of AIDS was diagnosed in Botswana in 1985,” the news service writes (Miles, 8/14).

U.S. Government Releases First-Ever Strategy To Prevent, Respond To Gender-Based Violence Globally

“On Friday August 10, the U.S. Department of State and [USAID] released the first ever U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally [.pdf], including their implementation plans,” Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, writes in the department’s “Dipnote” blog. “An accompanying Executive Order issued by President Obama was also released, directing all relevant agencies to implement this strategy,” Verveer notes, adding, “These efforts highlight the United States’ commitment to preventing and responding to gender-based violence around the world” (8/14). In a post in USAID’s “Impact” blog, Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg writes that the strategy, “an interagency response to a Congressional request,” “establishes a government-wide approach that identifies, coordinates, integrates, and leverages current efforts and resources” (8/14). A fact sheet on preventing and responding to gender-based violence globally is available on the White House webpage (8/10).

Scientists Researching Ebola Virus Say Vaccine 'Unlikely' Due To Funding Restraints

“Scientists researching the lethal Ebola virus have told [BBC News] that a commercial vaccine to prevent the onset of infection may never be developed,” the news service reports. “Efforts to develop a vaccine have been funded in the main by the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health,” which “have poured millions of dollars into scientific research because of concerns that the virus could be turned into a biological weapon,” the news service writes. But in recent days, two companies that had begun human safety trials of their vaccines, Sarepta and Tekmira, “have been told by the Defense Department to temporarily stop work on their vaccines due to funding constraints.”

Universal HIV Treatment, If Achieved, Would Not Mean Eradication Of AIDS

In this post in BMJ’s “Yankee Doodling,” Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist at RTI International and an associate editor for the journal, reflects on the possibility of achieving an AIDS-free generation “if somehow we succeeded in getting all HIV positive people in the world identified and under long term treatment.” He writes that while there has been “astonishing progress against AIDS,” “two concerns immediately arise: the magnitude of the work remaining to find and continuously treat all those infected, and the confusion between that treatment (even if it is somehow universally successful) and actual eradication of the disease.” He concludes, “It is a rosy scenario, but even if it came true it still would not spell the end of the HIV story,” because “[w]e have no vaccine, and the virus keeps mutating” (8/14).

U.S. Support Of PEPFAR, Global Fund Helping To Achieve Global AIDS, TB, Malaria Goals

In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”

Lack Of Legislative Action Heading Into Congressional Recess Could Impact Global Health Funding

“With Congress adjourned until after Labor Day and not a single funding bill for the federal fiscal year beginning October signed into law before the recess even began, the virtual standstill of legislative action could have a mixed impact on global health funding,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “It appears that House and Senate leaders have reached a tentative agreement to fund most government programs under a so-called ‘continuing resolution’ that would essentially continue funding for most programs at current levels through March 30, 2013,” the blog writes, adding, “PEPFAR is likely to see at least a modest cut from current funding so that resolution could delay or potentially reduce the overall hit to the program” (Lubinski , 8/10).

Philippines Appeals For Aid Following Widespread Flooding In Manila

“Philippine authorities appealed Thursday for help in getting relief to two million people affected by deadly floods in and around the capital, warning that evacuation centers were overwhelmed,” Agence France-Presse reports (Morella, 8/9). “The capital city, Manila, has received two months’ worth of rain in the past 48 hours, leaving much of the 12-million-person metropolis under water,” Deutsche Welle writes (8/9). BBC News reports that at least 19 people have died and more than 80,000 are in emergency shelters (McGeown, 8/8). According to CNN, “U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas said Tuesday that the United States would provide $100,000 for disaster relief” (8/8).

Advocacy Groups Warn Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Affect Access To Low-Cost Medications, Bloomberg Reports

Bloomberg Businessweek examines how ongoing trade negotiations related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership could affect access to quality low-cost medications, including antiretrovirals, in low- and middle-income countries. “Protecting the patents of drug makers … as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has drawn criticism from groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Public Citizen,” and “[t]he proposed accord has also spurred calls from U.S. lawmakers for greater transparency about the negotiations,” the news service writes. “The multilateral talks, the main accord being pursued by President Barack Obama’s administration, … began with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam [and] may expand after the parties invited Canada and Mexico,” the news service notes.