PlusNews examines challenges and concerns over an announcement by the Zimbabwean government that it plans to train nurses to prescribe and administer antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to people living with HIV in the country. “Previously, nurses were allowed only to administer the drugs after a doctor had prescribed them,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, changes made in the job descriptions of nurses by the Nurses’ Council of Zimbabwe will see them prescribing the medication.” Owen Mugurungi, director of the HIV/AIDS and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, said, “I need to point out that it’s not enough that a professional council allow nurses to administer drugs; this should be followed up with measures to capacitate nurses to do this work correctly,” according to PlusNews. The news agency looks at how the possibility of work overload for nurses, a government hiring freeze on nurses, and ARV availability could affect the country’s plan to reach 85 percent of the population in need of HIV treatment by the end of this year (10/16).
Offering Methadone Treatment To Drug Users Significantly Reduces HIV Infection, Transmission Risk, Study Shows
Offering methadone treatment to people who use injection drugs “substantially reduces the risk that they will get HIV or give it to anyone else,” according to a BMJ study published this month that pools data from studies done in nine countries, the New York Times reports. “Methadone itself does not affect the virus; scientists believe it works because [drug users] on treatment become better able to stop sharing needles and selling sex for drugs,” the newspaper writes, noting “the risk of catching HIV is one in 125 from a syringe, about one in 122 from anal sex, and less than one in 2,000 from vaginal sex, according to an editorial published with the study.” The newspaper adds, “Many countries, including Russia, have large HIV epidemics among addicts but nonetheless outlaw methadone and buprenorphine treatment for political, religious, or other reasons” (McNeil, 10/15).
“Health workers in Myanmar are confident that efforts to narrow the country’s huge gap between access to, and need for, life-saving medicines to treat HIV/AIDS are back on track after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria invited the country to apply for additional funding,” IRIN reports. “The agency’s coordinator for Myanmar, Eamonn Murphy, said new funds will allow the country to close a ‘treatment gap’ where only one-third of the 120,000 people nationwide who need [antiretrovirals (ARVs)] receive them,” the news service notes. “A spokesman for the Global Fund said it ‘had encouraged an application by the country for more money’ following an August visit to Myanmar by its general director,” IRIN writes. “Health officials drafted a ‘concept note’ outlining how additional funding might be used, which will be reviewed by the Global Fund’s board, Murphy said,” according to the news service, which notes, “It offers two scenarios: the first ensures 85 percent of those who need ARVs receive them by 2015; while with the second, 76 percent of people would be covered, he said.” The news service adds, “Based on feedback from the board, the government will choose a strategy for the proposal to be submitted early next year” (10/12).
“Thirty years ago, the CDC reported the first cases of HIV/AIDS in New York and Los Angeles,” Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Kwei Quartey writes in the Huffington Post World Blog, noting, “Since the beginning of the epidemic, over 600,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States, and 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV.” He briefly recounts a history of the disease in both the U.S. and Africa, writing, “Initially thought to be a disease of gay white men, AIDS is now a global epidemic.” He continues, “Whatever its origins, HIV/AIDS became a severe epidemic in East Africa in the 1980s,” noting, “The initial response by African governments to the AIDS crisis was inadequate, and in some cases absent.”
U.N. Report Shows Francophone African Countries Lag Behind In AIDS Treatment; NGOs Call For Increased Funding
“Despite great progress within a short time, the 29 French-speaking countries of sub-Saharan Africa are lagging far behind other states in the region in the battle against HIV/AIDS and need a massive increase in international aid, according to a United Nations report” (.pdf) released Friday, the U.N. News Centre reports. The report — titled “Decision Point La Francophonie: No new HIV infections, no one denied treatment” and released at a meeting of the 56-member state International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF) in Kinsasha, Democratic Republic of Congo — said while antiretroviral treatment coverage in IOF countries increased rapidly between 2003 and 2011, resulting in a nearly 30 percent decline in AIDS-related deaths, “an estimated 970,000 people are still waiting to access life-saving HIV treatment in IOF countries, accounting for 14 percent of the global treatment gap,” according to the news service.
PEPFAR has released its “Fiscal Year 2013 Country Operational Plan (COP) Guidance” on its website. The document (.pdf) provides guidance with respect to COP preparation; priorities and approaches for FY 2013; mandatory earmarks and reporting requirements; COP elements; as well as management and operations (October 2012).
BBC News reports on an investigation into the circulation of fake HIV drugs in Tanzania, writing, “Analysts say there is concern about the quality of locally made drugs given widespread corruption in political circles in the East Africa nation.” Health Minister Hussein Mwinyi “has suspended three top officials and stopped local production of the antiretrovirals (ARVs) while the probe takes place,” the news service notes, adding, “Mwinyi said the health ministry was alerted in August to problems with a batch of ARV drugs at the Tarime District Hospital.”
“Indonesia’s government has quietly issued an order to override the patents on seven important medicines used to treat people with HIV and hepatitis B and allow cheap versions to be made by local drug companies,” Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley reports in her “Global Health Blog.” “The ‘government use’ order was made on 3 September, but with no fanfare and, as yet, no public outcry from the pharmaceutical giants which, in the past, used to defend their patents volubly and aggressively — through the courts as well as diplomatic back-channels,” Boseley writes (10/11). Reuters notes the move “follow[s] the lead” of other Asian nations, including India and China, “that have allowed the production of cheap generic drugs that cut into the sales of global pharmaceutical companies” (Bigg/Hirschler, 10/12).
Inter Press Service examines how Mexico’s government and non-governmental organizations are working to stem the spread of HIV among people who use injection drugs. “According to a project financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria since 2011, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Mexico is 5.77 percent among intravenous drug users … compared to 0.24 to 0.3 percent in the general population aged 15 to 49,” IPS writes, noting HIV prevalence among drug users is highest in “northern Mexico, one of the areas in the country hit hardest by drug trafficking.” The news service adds “[t]here are 28 syringe exchange programs in this country of 112 million people, insufficient to serve the entire population of intravenous drug users.” IPS discusses funding shortfalls for syringe exchange programs, legal hurdles to obtaining clean injection equipment, and how the government aims to continue receiving Global Fund money through 2013 (Godoy, 10/11).
Fareed Abdullah, CEO of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), who took office in July, spoke with PlusNews regarding the body’s reform, the revival of provincial AIDS councils, resource mobilization, and the appointment of a new board that allows SANAC to operate independently. According to the news service, Abdullah said the secretariat has three times as many staff as it did three months ago, adding, “We have a team of eight people working on the grant renewal process for about five Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] grants. We’ve committed two staff members to dealing with PEPFAR [the U.S.-based President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] and the new agreement to co-manage programs, and we’ll expand [staff] as the needs expand” (10/11).