In this post in USAID’s “Impact” blog, Jessica Hartl, information Officer for the Office of Food for Peace, notes she “recently traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to visit food assistance programs implemented by” the office and asks, “[W]hy in countries so lush and ripe for agriculture were people so food insecure?” She writes, “Food insecurity is a complex issue, and for the DRC it includes key issues such as low productivity, lack of market access and infrastructure, ongoing conflict and poor nutrition practices,” adding, “Despite these challenges, I was amazed at the ability of USAIDâ€™s partners to have as much positive impact as they have had on food security” (8/7).
US Global Health Policy
“U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to South Africa that Pretoria will begin taking more of the responsibilities for its HIV/AIDS program, part of a broader effort to overhaul the U.S. global plan for AIDS relief launched under former President George W. Bush,” Reuters reports. “On Wednesday, Clinton is expected to sign a deal to rework South Africa’s programs under [PEPFAR], allowing the government to better use the funding in its fight against the virus,” the news service writes.
The Devex “Development Newswire” examines how disagreements over how to administer global food aid programs is affecting negotiations over a FY 2013 version of the U.S. farm bill. “The farm bill provides for the U.S. Agency for International Development-administered Food for Peace program, which received around $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2012, as well as the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, funded at around $200 million,” the news service notes, and writes, “At 0.5 percent or 0.6 percent of the nearly trillion-dollar farm bill, global food aid is ‘barely a rounding error,’ said Lucas Koach, policy adviser at Food for the Hungry.” It continues, “If a new five-year farm bill is not passed, shorter interim bills could succeed, or there could be a continuing resolution to renew funding at 2008 levels,” adding, “If none of those options is in place by the last day of September, the farm bill reverts to statutory language from the 1940s” (Brookland, 8/7).
Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).
With incentives to find new antibiotics signed into U.S. law last month, “multiple players are vying for the lead in the [multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)] drug development niche,” Nature Medicine reports. “The fifth reauthorization of the U.S. Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), signed into law on 9 July, includes a subsection called the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) Act that aims to spur development of antibiotics for drug-resistant bacteria, including MDR-TB,” the news service writes, noting, “Drug makers that ask for approval of medicines to treat these pathogens will receive priority review, as well as five additional years of market exclusivity and fast-track status.” Currently, MDR-TB treatment “involves a bevy of regular tuberculosis medicines that, in many cases, must be administered for as long as two years or more … [and] don’t always work,” Nature Medicine states, adding, “The hope is that new medicines will shorten treatment times and improve cure rates.” The article discusses several medicines that are in different phases of research (Willyard, 8/6).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday visited officials in South Africa and discussed the response to HIV/AIDS, the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. Speaking with Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane “in the second cabinet-level strategic dialogue between the two nations,” Clinton said “that global efforts to stop the virus ‘have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,'” the news service writes. “In South Africa, 5.7 million people — 17.8 percent of the population — have tested positive for HIV,” and PEPFAR “has spent $3.2 billion on antiretroviral drugs and HIV prevention programs in [the country] since 2004,” according to the AP.
Noting more than one month has passed since the Child Survival Call to Action event in Washington, D.C., during which stakeholders came together in support of the UNICEF-led initiative “A Promise Renewed,” USAID Senior Adviser Nicole Schiegg introduces a new tumblr blog from the agency that will feature U.S. action on child survival in a post on USAID’s “Impact” blog. “We’ll be updating this feed with quotes from U.S. Government officials, new products like fact sheets, and photos from field visits and follow up events,” she writes, adding, “Our goal is to show the U.S. Government’s continued support and emphasis on children’s health and survival” (8/6).
As part of its monthly series Stories Behind the Statistics, “guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S IYWG, which provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features a story by Gaj Bahadur Gurung, program coordinator for the National Federation of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, who discusses the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls and young women in South Asia. He writes, “Policies and programs must both help prevent early and unintended pregnancy (for married and unmarried women) and mitigate the negative consequences for girls who do become pregnant. Programs should provide young women access to, control over, and informed choice of their sexual and maternal health services” (8/3).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “expressed concern” over Uganda’s increasing number of HIV infections on a visit to the country last week, part of an 11-day trip to eight African nations, Uganda’s New Vision reports (Mukasa, 8/4). According to the Observer, Clinton “said while America recognizes the strides Uganda made in the 1990s when HIV prevalence dropped from 20 percent to seven percent, prevalence is now rising.” PEPFAR is the largest donor for HIV programs in the country, the newspaper notes, adding that “[t]he U.S. government recently committed $25 million to help Uganda eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission and … [m]ore than 300,000 Ugandans are receiving treatment through PEPFAR” (Mwesigye, 8/5). “The reversal is particularly disappointing to health experts given the time and attention that have been focused on AIDS here, and the billions of dollars spent,” the New York Times writes (Kron, 8/2). “I am hoping that we can work together to make prevention the focus again. We are going to review our strategy because we want to emphasize what will work,” Clinton said, according to the Observer (8/5).
Science looks back at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), which ended last week in Washington, D.C., writing, “The battle against HIV is having more success than ever. … But several presentations made clear that a gulf separates aspirations from reality when it comes to ‘ending AIDS,’ which [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and many other prominent speakers at the conference emphasized was now possible.” Though more people are on antiretrovirals (ARVs) now than ever, low- and middle-income countries are spending more on HIV/AIDS, and “attempts to find a cure — long viewed as a fantasy — now lead the scientific agenda,” most “of the 34 million HIV-infected people in the world do not take ARVs, many receiving treatment have trouble staying on the medication, … new infection rates continue to climb in key populations,” “[n]o AIDS vaccine is on the horizon,” and “funding shortfalls loom for global programs,” Science writes, quoting several speakers at the conference and providing more detail on the successes and challenges in the response against HIV/AIDS (Cohen, 8/3).