“Results from a groundbreaking trial of three drugs given in combination — one of them completely new and one not yet licensed for this use — killed more than 99 percent of patients’ [tuberculosis (TB)] bacteria after two weeks of treatment,” and the combination “appears to be equally effective on drug-resistant TB,” the Guardian reports (Boseley, 7/23). The combination “comprises a candidate TB drug called PA-824, the antibiotic moxifloxacin not yet approved for TB therapy, and an existing TB drug, pyrazinamide,” Agence France-Presse writes, noting the combination is called PaMZ (7/23). “Because the combination doesn’t contain isoniazid or rifampicin, the two main medicines used against TB, it also may provide a much-needed weapon against strains that fail to succumb to those drugs and are spreading, the researchers wrote,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Bennett, 7/23). The Phase II study, which was presented on Monday at the International AIDS Conference in Washington and published in the Lancet, “needs to be confirmed in larger and longer trials,” according to Reuters (Steenhuysen, 7/23).
The Daily Beast’s “U.S. Policy” blog profiles former president George W. Bush’s post-presidency work in global health through the Bush Institute, which “houses a variety of programs under the broad headings of global health, education reform, economic growth, and advancing human freedom, areas that advance Bush’s interests and reflect his presidency.” The blog writes, “Now that he’s been out of the White House for almost four years, [Bush’s] post-presidency is coming into sharper relief, and there’s a lot for his critics to admire.” The blog highlights his recent trips to Africa with wife Laura Bush, during which they focused on efforts to expand cervical and breast cancer detection and treatment (Clift, 7/23).
Carrie Hessler-Radelet, deputy director of the Peace Corps, discusses the agency’s work in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support in an AIDS.gov blog post. “Last year alone, 52 percent of all Peace Corps Volunteers engaged in such work in communities overseas,” she writes, noting, “In 2013, through the Global Health Service Partnership, we look forward to placing doctors and nurses as adjunct faculty in training institutions in Africa.” She says that every volunteer working in Africa is trained in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, outlines how volunteers contribute to the fight against the disease, and concludes, “So many of today’s inequalities, such as poverty, hunger, and HIV/AIDS, still loom large in much of our world. But, even as we face new challenges, we must continue to work together to make sure we can achieve an AIDS-free generation” (7/18).
“African leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to efforts to eliminate malaria, after they were informed that unprecedented success in scaling up malaria control interventions resulted in one third reduction of malaria deaths in African in the last decade,” PANA/Afriquejet reports, adding “the leaders made the commitment at a high level meeting presided over by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Chair of African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), in Addis Ababa, on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit which opened in the Ethiopian capital Sunday.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday named Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania, a former U.N. deputy secretary-general, as the new Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, according to a U.N. statement, PANA/Afriquejet reports. As deputy secretary-general from 2007 to 2012, Migiro “was integrally involved in promoting the AIDS response globally and within Africa, with special emphasis on reducing the vulnerability of women and girls and ensuring the rights of people living with HIV,” the news service writes (7/14).
The results of three clinical trials published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the antiretroviral drug Truvada, a combination of tenofovir and emtracitabine, can be “highly effective at preventing infection in HIV-free individuals — as long as those individuals take the drug every day as prescribed,” CNN’s “The Chart” reports (7/11). The strategy of using antiretrovirals to prevent HIV among healthy people at risk of contracting the virus is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, USA Today notes. “Two studies from Africa in heterosexual patients found that the drugs reduced the rate of HIV infection by 62 percent to 75 percent, a success rate that’s comparable to results from studies of gay men,” the newspaper writes, adding, “A third study in African women at high risk of infection, however, was ended early after researchers saw the drugs had no effect on HIV rates, largely because fewer than 40 percent of study participants took their pills as instructed” (Szabo, 7/11).
As the XIX International AIDS Conference concludes in Washington, D.C., “[t]his is a moment for all Americans to be proud of the best thing George W. Bush did as president: launching an initiative to combat AIDS in Africa that has saved millions of lives,” Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson states in an opinion piece in the newspaper. PEPFAR “deserves accolades,” he writes, adding that the Bush administration ignored dissenting opinions stating that treatment in Africa posed a risk because of potential drug resistance and was motivated “by altruism” to create the program. Robinson notes that the Obama administration has proposed shifting funds from PEPFAR to “complementary programs” and that officials say “that overall HIV/AIDS funding will rise to an all-time high.” He also notes that Obama ended restrictions on allowing visas for people living with HIV to enter the country during his first year in office. “But if Africa is gaining ground against AIDS, history will note that it was Bush, more than any other individual, who turned the tide. The man who called himself the Decider will be held accountable for a host of calamitous decisions. But for opening his heart to Africa, he deserves nothing but gratitude and praise,” Robinson concludes (7/26).
NPR continues its coverage of issues being discussed at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) with several stories on its health blog and radio programs. On Thursday, “Tell Me More” host Michel Martin spoke with Teguest Guerma, the first woman director general of the African Medical and Research Fund (AMREF) about how African nations are responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and how they are working “to find the solutions ourselves, with the support of the international community,” Guerma said, according to the program’s transcript (7/26). On “All Things Considered,” correspondent Jason Beaubien reports on how South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal province is responding to high rates of HIV and tuberculosis (7/26). NPR’s “Shots” blog reports on Alexandra Volgina, who won a Red Ribbon Award for her efforts to raise awareness about drug shortages in Russia and prompting the Ministry of Health to respond (Doucleff, 7/26).
With Africa’s “emerging position in the global order, … [a]stute African leaders are striving to ensure that this realignment delivers a new paradigm of partnership for sustainable health development — a partnership that is led by Africa, for Africans, through African-sourced solutions,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in a Huffington Post “Impact Blog” opinion piece. The African Union is taking steps “to reduce the continent’s dependence on foreign solutions and foreign ‘aid’ while adopting and scaling up development solutions that have been proven to work in different African countries, and finding better and more sustainable approaches to financing them,” he states. “It makes a lot of sense to apply such an approach to addressing three killer diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria,” he continues, adding that “the overreliance of Africa’s AIDS response on foreign investments, foreign drugs and foreign solutions must be addressed.”
Namibian High Court Rules HIV-Positive Women Were Improperly Counseled Before Sterilization Procedures, But Not Based On HIV Status
“The Namibian High Court has ruled that the human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated when they were coerced into being sterilized while they gave birth, but the judge dismissed claims that the sterilization amounted to discrimination based on their HIV status,” PlusNews reports (7/30). “The court ruled the three were sterilized without being adequately informed,” Reuters notes. “There should be unhurried counseling in a language that is clearly understood by the patient,” Windhoek High Court Judge Elton Hoff said, adding, “I am not convinced that informed consent was given,” the news service reports (7/30).