Burma, also known as Myanmar, “seems to be making the difficult and fragile transition from military dictatorship to fledgling democracy,” but the country has “some of the worst health indicators in the world,” a Lancet editorial states. “[T]he military retains a strong presence in regions of ethnic tension, and health and human rights abuses are certain to continue without adequate monitoring,” it continues.
Access to Health Services
“Progress in ensuring that women in poor countries have access to modern methods of contraception has stalled,” according to a new report (.pdf) by the United Nations Population Fund and the Guttmacher Institute, BMJ reports. The study “found that this year 645 million women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years) are using modern methods of contraception in the developing world, 42 million more than in 2008,” but “this rise is less than half the increase of 100 million between 2003 and 2008,” the journal writes.
AllAfrica.com/Guardian examine efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer among women in Kenya, where an estimated 3,400 women die of the disease each year and only five percent receive screening. “Kenya’s national reproductive health strategic plan has addressed cervical cancer largely through the roll-out of a low-cost screening tool known as VIA (visual inspection of the cervix using ascetic acid),” but experts agree that more widespread use of cervical cancer vaccines and public education campaigns about the disease would be more effective at preventing and catching cases earlier, the news service reports. “Once the public owns this problem and pushes for it, … then the government would be forced to implement [a vaccine] strategy in full,” Lucy Muchiri, a pathologist specializing in cervical cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital and the University of Nairobi, said, the news service notes (Njoroge, 6/12).
The Miami Herald reports on Brazil’s national HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention program, writing, “By the mid-1990s, more effective and powerful antiretroviral therapies replaced the older treatments, and in 1996 Brazil declared that it would offer free antiretroviral treatment to all citizens with AIDS.” However, “the controversial program — the government broke international patent laws to mass-produce the drugs at a lower cost and recruited sex workers to help distribute condoms — may not survive for long, experts say,” the newspaper continues.
HIV drugs have not only “transformed a fatal disease into a chronic one,” but “[t]hey have also made HIV a big business,” this Economist editorial states. The editorial examines the market for HIV drugs, writing, “The market is as unusual as it is large, both buoyed by government support and worryingly dependent on it. The past decade has brought fancier medicine in rich countries and copious aid for poor ones. But the war is far from won.” The editorial writes, “In total, public and private investment has yielded more than two dozen HIV drugs,” adding, “Sales of antiretroviral drugs in America and the five biggest European markets reached $13.3 billion in 2011, according to Datamonitor, a research outfit.”
UNAIDS Executive Director Calls On African Leaders To Reduce 'Triple Dependency' On External Sources Of HIV Drugs, Commodities, Technologies
“Delivering a speech at [Wednesday’s] opening session of the 16th Conference of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe congratulated leaders across the region for their personal commitment to the HIV response, specifically with regard to upholding human rights and protecting human capital,” UNAIDS reports in an article on its website. “Addressing eight Heads of State and other high-level participants in Lome, Togo, he called on African leaders to reduce their ‘triple dependency’ on external sources for HIV drugs, commodities, and technologies,” the agency writes, adding, “To ensure the health and security of their populations, African leaders should focus greater attention and resources on the local production of medicines, said the UNAIDS executive director” (6/6).
The Nairobi-based African Institute for Development Policy on Tuesday presented a report called “Africa on the Move!” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, VOA News reports, noting the report “says that in some African countries, political will, maternal and child health concerns as well as more and more funding are helping to develop effective family planning.” According to VOA, “Steve McDonald, the host of the event and Africa director at the Wilson Center, said partnerships between governments and religious organizations, which sometimes provide the bulk of health services in remote areas, are also crucial.”
In this post in the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases’ “End the Neglect” blog, Helen Hamilton, policy adviser for neglected tropical diseases at Sightsavers, reflects on the Rio+20 conference, “which took place last week in Brazil to discuss how the world can develop more sustainably.” She writes, “Following three long days of discussions on water, climate change and other sustainable development topics to advocate for this group of debilitating diseases, I left feeling there were some hopeful signs.” She discusses the final outcome document from the conference, titled “The Future We Want,” (.pdf) and writes that “with 2.5 billion people not having access to adequate sanitation it was the evolution from just discussing the right to access water to discussing water AND sanitation that was so refreshing” (6/28).
The “groundbreaking” London Summit on Family Planning, scheduled for July 11, “aims to provide an additional 120 million women … lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020,” Gary Darmstadt, who heads the Family Health Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. If that goal is reached, the health and economic benefits would be “staggering,” he says, laying out the five guiding principles to the world’s “collective efforts to revitalize family planning.” Those principles include improving “political commitment, funding, and collaboration”; promoting equal rights among women and girls; strengthening voluntary family planning programs under existing infrastructure; and holding stakeholders accountable, he writes, and concludes, “The time to come together is now. The global community has the chance to achieve transformational results that will save millions of lives” (6/28).
Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).