In this PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog post, Julien Potet and Katy Athersuch of Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) Access Campaign say that the WHO’s decision last week to “simply continue monitoring” the medical research and development (R&D) industry’s ability to address the needs of people living in developing countries “by creating a global R&D ‘observatory'” is “a deeply disappointing outcome that will not help re-shape priorities, increase funding or catalyze development of urgently needed new medical tools; at best it will only underscore further how badly these actions are needed.” They discuss how access to new tools, technologies, and treatments “can save lives” and some of the progress made in expanding R&D. Advocates’ “pressure will be critical for engaging governments and mobilizing the public leadership needed to support the research for cures that millions of neglected patients await,” they conclude (12/6).
Access to Health Services
UNFPA and mobile phone company Nokia announced this week that the “company will donate the equivalent of 3,000 clean delivery kits to the fund,” according to an UNFPA press release. “The kits, designed and distributed by UNFPA, help ensure safe delivery of babies in humanitarian settings,” and are being provided as a result of the fund’s social media campaign “Safe Birth. Even Here.,” the press release states, adding, “The campaign, which reports on and tracks safe deliveries in refugee camps and emergencies around the globe, is active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and aims to raise awareness about maternal health and the challenges faced by expectant mothers in crisis settings” (12/4).
In its continuing series titled “The State of AIDS,” GlobalPost examines the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean, where “[m]ajor gains have been made in the fight against the spread of HIV” over the past decade, particularly in stopping mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). However, some countries in the region have some of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates outside of sub-Saharan Africa; “the disease continues to spread among certain at-risk populations,” such as men who have sex with men; and “nearly one-third of those infected in Latin America are still not getting treated,” the news service reports.
Chris Endean of the GAVI Alliance writes ahead of the GAVI Partners Forum in a CNN opinion piece about efforts to vaccinate members of the Maasai tribes in Tanzania’s Arusha National Park. Noting Maasai tribes are “constantly on the move searching for water and fresh pasture for their cattle,” he describes “severe logistical challenges” health workers face when trying to reach their patients and notes, “The need to get to hard-to-reach people like the Maasai and the rest of the estimated eight percent of Tanzania’s population that do not receive basic life-saving vaccines has taken on a new urgency with the country’s recent launch of a five-year development plan” called the “One Plan.” Endean notes the forum is taking place in the country’s capital, Dar es Salaam, and that during the event, “the health ministry will launch two new vaccines into the national immunization program — pneumococcal and rotavirus — tackling the primary causes of pneumonia and diarrhea — two of the leading killers of under-fives in Tanzania” (12/5).
PRI’s “The World” this week features a series examining the challenges of addressing cancer in the developing world. The series, produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, includes radio stories, multimedia features, an interactive map, and infographics, according to the main page. The radio stories examine cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S. (12/3). In an interview with the series’ principal reporter, Joanne Silberner, Lancet editor Richard Horton said, “Cancer is certainly being under-recognized and neglected in low- and middle-income countries. … I think cancer is slowly becoming more recognized but there is a long way to go before it gets the attention it so urgently needs (12/3). On December 5, PRI will host a Facebook chat from 10am-4pm EST that will feature Silberner and cancer researchers and advocates (12/4).
“Yellow fever has killed 164 people over the last three months in Sudan’s Darfur, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday,” Reuters reports. According to a joint statement, “Between 2 September and 29 November, the total number of suspected yellow fever cases has reached 677, including 164 deaths,” the news agency writes. Aid agencies provide almost all available health care in Darfur, “where rebels took up arms in 2003 complaining of neglect by the central government,” according to Reuters. Sudan’s health ministry and the WHO have vaccinated more than half of a targeted 3.6 million people in the region for the disease, the news agency notes (Dziadosz, 12/3).
“Many currently believe that U.S. domestic entitlements are too large, but disregard the fact that the PEPFAR program has created a new class of moral entitlements overseas — in the form of four million and counting people receiving U.S.-supported life-sustaining AIDS treatment in low- and middle-income countries around the world,” Mead Over, a senior fellow at the CGD, writes in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog. He continues, “But I think the U.S. has just as much fiduciary and moral responsibility to anticipate and plan for its current and future AIDS treatment entitlements overseas as it does for its much larger Social Security and Medicare entitlements at home,” and adds, “Moving forward, I suggest that the U.S. should figure out how to convert the moral entitlements it has already granted into credible long-term enforceable commitments which are more analogous to the commitments it makes to Social Security beneficiaries in the U.S.” (11/30).
U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Wanda Nesbitt writes in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, “Here in Namibia, the United States, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is working closely with the people and Government of Namibia to prevent new HIV infections, provide lifesaving HIV treatment to those who need it, and help put an end to AIDS in the country.” She discusses the recently released Blueprint for an AIDS-free Generation (.pdf), progress in Namibia’s AIDS response, and the transition period in which Namibia will take full responsibility for its HIV program. “We are proud to work with the government and people of Namibia to do our part toward achieving the goal of creating an AIDS-free generation. By investing smarter and working together, we will win this fight,” she writes (12/3).
BBC News examines HIV/AIDS in Iran, writing, “In the 2000s, Iran became known as the region’s leader in the fight against AIDS. Each year, the government allocates millions of dollars to prevent and manage the disease, and government-sponsored clinics across the country help battle it.” The news service continues, “Yet several HIV/AIDS activists and Iranians infected with the virus argue that efforts to control the epidemic have suffered major setbacks in recent years, mostly because of the weakening economy and the widespread stigma of the illness.”
On Saturday, December 1, “United Nations officials [marked] World AIDS Day with a call for building on recent successes and pressing ahead to get to zero — zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths — by 2015,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘On this World AIDS Day, let us commit to build on and amplify the encouraging successes of recent years to consign HIV/AIDS to the pages of history,’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said [.pdf] in his message for the day,” the news service writes, noting UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, “We have moved from despair to hope. Far fewer people are dying from AIDS.” The news service also includes quotes from Irina Bokova, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake; and U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin (11/30).