A Lancet editorial discusses the agenda of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington last month and asks how the success of the conference will be judged at the XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), to be held in Melbourne, Australia. “The return of the conference to the U.S. after 22 years, [was not only] a focus for celebration, but also provided a platform for vocal objection to the ban on injecting drug users and sex workers from entering the U.S.,” the editorial states, adding that “the absence of these groups from the meeting is rightly seen by many as a hindrance to developing approaches to combat the epidemic in regions where the disease is concentrated in these populations.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for the establishment of a global stockpile of the cholera vaccine to respond to outbreaks like the one that has gripped Haiti since an earthquake hit the country in 2010, NPR’s “Shots” reports (Knox, 8/17). “On Thursday, experts meeting in Washington endorsed the use of the vaccine to control the continuing outbreak in Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” the New York Times writes, adding, “Studies conducted by medical charities there showed that up to 90 percent of people who had received one dose of the vaccine returned for a second dose and were therefore protected” (McNeil, 8/17). “The WHO’s technical advisers cited the recent Haiti vaccination project, involving 100,000 people in Port-au-Prince and a rural area, as evidence that cholera vaccination can work in the midst of an outbreak,” “Shots” notes. According to the blog, “the WHO is seeking funds to launch the stockpile, which would initially contain enough doses to vaccinate a million people and cost $10 million a year to maintain” (8/17).
The New York Times reports on efforts by the GAVI Alliance to deliver vaccines for children in war-torn and secretive countries. According to the newspaper, the non-profit group “sold to North Korea a vaccine against five diseases, and has announced plans to roll out other vaccines soon in Yemen, the Republic of Congo and Pakistan.” The newspaper notes that the alliance “does not do the vaccinating, but negotiates low prices from manufacturers and resells the vaccines at prices on a sliding scale, depending on a country’s gross national income per capita.” According to the New York Times, “[F]irst the group studies whether the country can use the vaccine — whether officials can keep it refrigerated even in rural villages, for example, and whether there are enough trained vaccinators” (McNeil, 7/30).
“Rain-battered Haiti is at risk of a fresh cholera outbreak” after “[t]ropical storm Isaac ripped through the impoverished Caribbean island [Saturday],” children’s charity Plan International warns, according to AlertNet (8/26). “The 400,000 people living in camps in the capital Port-au-Prince, such as Jean Marie Vincent, as well as those living in towns to the south of the island, including Les Cayes and Jacmel are among those at risk, following heavy rains and flooding,” Oxfam writes in a press release (Brinicombe, 8/26). “With a reported total of 10 deaths for the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by [Haiti and the Dominican Republic], the scale of devastation was less than many people had feared,” but “the capital and countryside of disaster-prone Haiti did suffer sporadic flooding, fallen poles and scores of toppled tents that housed people who lost their homes in the massive 2010 earthquake,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “Across Haiti, the number of people evacuated due to flooding rose over the weekend,” the news service notes, adding, “The World Food Program had distributed two days of food to 8,300 of the people who had left their houses for 18 camps” (Blanco, 8/26). “Aid groups have prepared clean water and hygiene kits to help prevent the spread of cholera, which Haiti has struggled to control since the earthquake,” according to VOA News (8/25).
“It seems public health is the latest casualty of Pakistan’s fight against homegrown militants and extremist groups,” Huma Yusuf, a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, writes in this post in the New York Times’ “Latitude” blog, highlighting a recent ban on polio immunization campaigns by the Taliban. “After a period of retreat, the polio virus has recently been detected in sewage samples from several Karachi localities,” she notes, writing, “Today, 22,000 children may be at risk in Karachi, and as many as 250,000 in the tribal areas where Bahadur is based.” She continues, “The resurgence of polio in Karachi is especially worrying because the city is an incubator of disease.”
“In April, Partners In Health [PIH] responded to Haiti’s cholera epidemic by providing oral vaccinations to 45,000 people living in the country’s Artibonite region — specifically, to two rice-farming communities hit hard by cholera,” Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser at PIH, reports in an article on the organization’s webpage. “In partnership with Haiti’s Ministry of Health, hundreds of community health workers fanned out across the rural, flood-prone area, delivering two doses to each person by the end of May,” she writes, and discusses the impact of the campaign (8/1).
Using a rodent model to examine the long-term effects of a potential malaria vaccine, a new study published in PLoS Biology by researchers at Penn State University shows that the vaccine could lead to the development of more virulent forms of malaria, the PLoS blog “Biologue” reports (Gross, 7/31). “Vicki Barclay, the study’s lead author, said it shows a need to track the long-term impact of any malaria vaccine, especially since any such vaccine is expected to be ‘leaky’ — meaning it won’t offer complete protection, and the disease will continue to spread, albeit at a slower rate,” CNN’s “The Chart” writes. “Researchers working with the leading candidate vaccine immediately questioned [the study], saying they’ve seen no sign of dangerous changes as a result of their work,” the blog continues (Hellerman, 8/1).
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).
The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Monday released a report called “Eradicating Polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” According to the report summary, efforts to eradicate the virus globally “have proved largely successful, in part thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), launched by the international community in 1988,” and “[t]he number of new cases has dropped in the past decade, even in countries where the virus has never been eradicated.” The summary adds, “Today, there are only three countries in the world where the polio virus remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan” (8/13).
“When you’re dealing with a global public health crisis, having an international presence isn’t just advisable — it is imperative,” Margaret McGlynn, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact” blog, adding, “That’s why [IAVI], in partnership with USAID, has worked diligently over the past several years to establish itself as a truly global non-profit partner.” She continues, “IAVI has created an enviable network of research centers in sub-Saharan Africa dedicated to assessing novel AIDS vaccine candidates in clinical trials and conducting supporting epidemiological studies on HIV,” and writes that these “partnerships have made meaningful contributions to the research capacity of many developing countries — a capability that is now helping local researchers tackle other diseases” (8/13).