KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Meningitis Vaccine Tolerates African Heat Without Refrigeration

A study published in the journal Vaccine shows that a vaccine against meningitis A can be successfully stored and delivered without refrigeration in Africa, news services report.

The Guardian: Meningitis vaccine withstands African heat without damage
“The first immunization campaign in Africa using a vaccine that does not have to be stored in fridges and iceboxes has been successful and substantially cut costs, according to scientists. MenAfriVac is authorized for use at temperatures not exceeding 40C and can be kept out of the fridge for up to four days. The vaccine against meningitis A was unusual in being designed specifically for the African meningitis belt, where annual epidemics used to kill thousands, but experts say it would be feasible to allow other vaccines to be used outside of cold-chain conditions…” (Boseley, 2/19).

Nature News: Vaccines endure African temperatures without damage
“An immunization campaign in West Africa has shown that vaccines can be delivered to remote areas without using ice boxes, and still remain viable. … The anti-meningitis campaign, carried out in Benin in December 2012 by the country’s health ministry and researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) and PATH, a non-profit body based in Seattle, Washington, tested delivering a vaccine against deadly meningococcal meningitis A that was stored at temperatures of up to 40 °C for up to four days. Its findings, published today in Vaccine, mark an unequivocal success, with only nine of the more than 15,000 vials needing to be discarded, none of them for heat damage…” (Butler, 2/19).

Meningitis Vaccine Project: Revolutionary meningitis vaccine breaks cold chain barrier, extends reach to remotest Africa
“The first mass vaccination campaign conducted in Africa with a vaccine that does not require constant refrigeration succeeded in providing complete coverage while ensuring the vaccine stayed viable even in ambient temperatures up to 39°C (102.2°F), according to a study published online today in the journal Vaccine…” (2/18).

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UNAIDS Denounces Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

News outlets report on the controversy surrounding Uganda’s anti-gay law. Although the country faces threats of foreign aid cuts, other African countries, including Gambia, announce their support of similar stances.

U.N. News Centre: Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill has ‘serious human rights implications’ — UNAIDS
“The United Nations agency leading the global HIV/AIDS response warned today that the signing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda would have ‘serious human rights implications’ and urged protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world. The bill, passed by the Ugandan Parliament on 20 December, calls for a 14-year jail term for a first conviction and imprisonment for life for the offense of ‘aggravated homosexuality’…” (2/18).

Agence France-Presse: Uganda vows to defend ‘morals’ with anti-gay law
“Uganda’s government on Tuesday defended its decision to push through tough anti-homosexuality laws, saying it was determined to protect the country’s ‘morals’ even if that meant losing international aid…” (Matsiko, 2/18).

Science Speaks: ‘Scientists’ presentation leading to Uganda anti-gay law decision leaves questions
“Uganda President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement this weekend that he would sign the country’s new anti-homosexuality law may have seemed all the more puzzling in light of his assertion in late December that his decision on the legislation would be guided by science.” Though Museveni did not reject the bill, “it seemed all the more inevitable after scores of scientists from around the world, including Uganda, stepped up to the plate and in an open letter to the Ugandan President answered his questions on homosexuality and elucidated the tragic public health consequences of institutionalized discrimination…” (Barton, 2/18).

Reuters: Gambia’s Jammeh calls gays ‘vermin’, says to fight like mosquitoes
“Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh on Tuesday called homosexuals ‘vermin’ and said his government would tackle them in the same way it fights malaria-causing mosquitoes…” (Saine, 2/18).

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Climate Change Impacting Spread Of Infectious Diseases

News outlets report on how climate change is impacting the spread of infectious diseases.

ClimateWire/Scientific American: How the Spreading Symptoms of Climate Change Can be Deadly
“The hallmarks of a warming climate, heavier rains, more severe droughts, rising sea levels and longer growing seasons, are spreading a variety of pathogens throughout the world. Malaria is moving to the highlands. Lyme disease is spreading across the U.S. Northeast and eastern Canada. Outbreaks of cholera will increase with more unsafe water…” (Lippman, 2/18).

Inter Press Service: Climate Change Triggers Disease Risk in Tanzania
“Residents in low-lying areas in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, are potentially at risk of contracting waterborne diseases as heavy rains, which started last week, continue to pound the city. … According to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dar es Salaam is among five coastal regions with the highest number of cholera cases with incidents reported almost every year. But these cases could increase as this East African nation experiences the visible impact of climate change…” (Makoye, 2/18).

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Chikungunya Likely Will Reach The Americas

CIDRAP News: Expert says chikungunya likely to keep spreading
“With chikungunya, a viral disease that causes severe joint pain, spreading in the Caribbean, a U.S. expert said today that the virus is likely to reach other parts of the Americas, possibly including the United States…” (Roos, 2/18).

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Donor Funding Vital For Humanitarian Situation In Somalia, Says U.N. Official

U.N. News Centre: Funding critical for ‘fragile’ humanitarian situation in Somalia, stresses U.N. official
“Despite some stabilization, the humanitarian situation in Somalia remains fragile and it is vital that the international community stays the course to ensure that millions of people in the Horn of Africa nation receive the assistance they need, a top United Nations relief official said today…” (2/18).

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Disease Risk High Among Displaced People In Philippines

Wall Street Journal: Disease Risk Spreads as Philippine Evacuees Linger On
“…[T]housands of people [are] displaced by a bloody stand-off between Philippine government forces and a faction of the rebel Islamic group, the Moro National Liberation Front. The weeks-long battle that took place last September displaced more than 100,000 people from five villages around Zamboanga, a major port city on the southern island of Mindanao. … A shortage of toilets, food and medicine has increased the risk of disease, such as dengue and measles…” (Cuneta, 2/19).

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Ghana Has Low HIV Prevalence But High Stigma, Low Levels Of HIV Knowledge

Inter Press Service: Hope for HIV-Positive Teenagers in Northern Ghana
“…Ghana has a relatively low HIV prevalence of 1.4 percent, down from 2.3 percent in 2001. Low prevalence brings its own problems: lack of familiarity with managing the disease, high levels of stigma and low levels of tolerance. … MICS [Ghana Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey] data show that Ghana is falling short of its target of having 95 percent of youth aged 15-24 fully informed about HIV by 2015. ‘Comprehensive knowledge of HIV prevention and transmission is still low in Ghana, despite the many years of public sensitization,’ concluded the survey. ‘Concerted efforts should be directed at young people as many continue to get infected due to low levels of comprehensive HIV knowledge'” (Oppong-Ansah, 2/19).

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Newspaper Interviews AIDS Researcher Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

The Observer/Guardian: Françoise Barré-Sinoussi: ‘Ruling out a cure for AIDS would not be French’
The newspaper features a profile of and interview with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, the Nobel prize-winning virologist based at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. “…Driven by Barré-Sinoussi, a strategy to accelerate cure research was launched in 2012 by the International AIDS Society — the leading association of HIV/AIDS researchers, of which she is currently president…” (Corbyn, 2/15).

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Scientists Must Play Greater Role In Post-2015 Development Talks, Experts Say

SciDev.Net: Scientists ‘need to step up’ to development goal talks
“Scientists need greater access to discussions on a new sustainable development agenda if the final post-2015 framework is to accurately reflect their priorities, say experts close to the process. Shifting decision-makers’ behavior from merely acknowledging relevant scientific evidence to acting upon it will require a much deeper involvement of scientists through both official and unofficial channels, they say…” (Piotrowski, 2/18).

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Zimbabwe Encourages Male Circumcision To Help Lower Risk Of HIV Infection

VOA News: Zimbabwe Urges Male Circumcision to Reduce HIV/AIDS
“Zimbabwe’s government is encouraging more men to get circumcised in an effort to fight AIDS. Scientists say male circumcision may reduce the transmission of the HIV virus by up to 60 percent…” (Mhofu, 2/17).

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HPV Vaccine Program Begins In Kenya, But Access To Cervical Cancer Treatment Still Low

The Guardian: Kenyan girls get cervical cancer vaccine but women’s wait for treatment goes on
“Life is rough for women with cervical cancer in Kenya. Some of those attending the country’s only public treatment facility sleep on benches and concrete floors outside the hospital to save money for their treatment. Others never make it to the capital for assistance because they cannot afford the bus journey. Now, a vaccination program has been rolled out, offering hope for future generations…” (Hatcher, 2/17).

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BBC News Reports On Efforts In Kenya To Stop 'Sex For Fish' Practice

BBC News: Kenya’s battle to end ‘sex for fish’ trade
“It is estimated that around one and a half million people in Kenya are living with HIV/AIDS. Part of the problem is in rural areas where fishermen trade their catch with poor women market-sellers for sex, rather than money. Now local charities are trying to change the practice, known colloquially as ‘sex for fish.’ They are encouraging women to own boats and employ fishermen so that they are able to pay for the fish with money. Mark Lowen reports from western Kenya.​..” (Lowen, 2/17).

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Editorials and Opinions

Efforts To End FGM Will Have 'Profound' Effect On Women Worldwide

The Guardian: Education is central to ending FGM
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

“It has been deeply inspiring for me to hear that Fahma Mohamed, a 17-year-old supported by The Guardian, has attracted well over 212,000 signatures to her petition demanding action to end female genital mutilation (FGM). … As U.N. secretary general, one of my priorities is to help to empower women and girls, by promoting their health and defending their rights. We should strive to preserve the best in any culture, and leave those that harm behind. I hope that Fahma’s campaign is taken up elsewhere in the world. … Fortunately there are positive signs of progress in our global push to end this harmful practice. … The U.N. and our partners are engaged in valuable, culturally sensitive activities that aim to stop FGM without scolding or shame. … The effect on individuals will be profound, sparing them terrible suffering and pain. So thank you, Fahma, for what you are doing to help make this happen” (2/18).

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With Syrian Peace Talks Collapsed, U.S. Must Employ 'Some Means Of Lessening The Misery'

New York Times: What Next for Syria?
“With the apparent collapse of the United Nations-mediated peace talks on Syria, the United States and its allies find themselves in a difficult spot. … Now that peace talks have run aground, [President] Obama has asked his advisers to review old and new options for bolstering opposition forces and easing the desperate humanitarian crisis. These tasks have grown even more complicated as Syria has increasingly become a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists and as ever-larger refugee flows threaten to destabilize the region. Such threats may at some point require bolder steps. … Mr. Obama has resisted being pushed into a war by critics who seem to believe that force is the ultimate sign of leadership. Leadership sometimes means not going to war. It also means, in this case, persisting in the frustrating search for a peaceful solution and, short of that, some means of lessening the misery of the Syrian people” (2/18).

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Implementing Services For GBV Survivors Should Trump Data Collection

The Guardian: Gender-based violence: stop looking for ‘proof’ and put survivors first
Aisha Bain, women’s protection and empowerment advocacy adviser for the International Rescue Committee

“…We at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have found that women and girls do not come forward to disclose the violence they have experienced until specialized services are in place, and only then if they are trusted to be safe and confidential. Time and again, when services are established, women and girls seek help, sometimes the very same day those services are put into place. This is our evidence. … What would the women and girls we help think about the time and resources wasted on verifying incidents of violence? Services save lives and limited resources need to fund what works. Our mantra must become ‘survivors first, services first'” (2/18).

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Global Community Must Take Action To Promote Adolescent Health

Huffington Post: Why Adolescent Health And Why Now?
Zulfiqar Bhutta, Robert Harding chair in global child health and policy and co-director at the Centre for Global Child Health, and Stanley Zlotkin, chief of the Centre for Global Child Health

“…It is clear that this age group has been shockingly ignored in global health to date. There are almost 1.2 billion adolescents in the world, and almost 90 percent live in low- and middle-income countries. … We, as long-standing proponents of global child health and nutrition, applaud recent efforts by the U.N. agencies, notably UNICEF, UNFPA and World Health Organization (WHO), to refocus attention on adolescents as a critical global gap and an ‘age of opportunity.’ However, we feel that much more needs to be done by health care professionals and practitioners globally to address the gap between broad policies and local action…” (2/18).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Global Health Security Agenda 'Is Timely, Coherent, Compelling, And Concrete'

Writing in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ “Smart Global Health” blog, J. Stephen Morrison, CSIS senior vice president and director of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, examines the recently launched Global Health Security Agenda. “…The GHS Agenda marks an important and promising turning point in U.S. policy. It is timely, coherent, compelling, and concrete. It raises the bar for using U.S. diplomacy to advance health security; getting Margaret Chan, the Chinese, Russians, Saudis and Indians initially on board was no small achievement. Importantly, the GHS Agenda visibly presses diverse U.S. agencies to operate in concert. … Whether it is successful over the medium to long term will rest on the results achieved, whether the United States and partners continue to see value in staying engaged diplomatically, whether there are ample resources to build capacity, and whether those powers joined in the GHS Agenda conversations are willing to confront systematically how the world’s broken places threaten health security” (2/18).

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MSF Calls On Global Community To Step Up Cease-Fire Efforts In CAR

“The inability to protect civilians affected by targeted violence is evidence that the international community is failing the Central African Republic [CAR], said humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today,” development blogger Tom Murphy reports in Humanosphere. “…The organization called on members of the international community, including donors and U.N. Security Council countries, to take immediate action in order to stop fighting before it escalates further. Other aid groups expressed the same concerns recently…” (2/18).

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Girls Are Our 'Greatest Return On Investment'

In the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Denise Dunning, founder and executive director of Let Girls Lead and Champions For Change — both organizations that work on women’s and girls’ health — makes the case for investing in girls. She asserts “there are 600 million girls living in poor countries who struggle to eat, attend school, and see a doctor when they need one. These girls could be our own daughters — bright, eager to learn, with dreams and hopes for the future. These girls could become doctors, entrepreneurs, and leaders of their countries. These girls could change the world. … The world’s 600 million girls are our greatest return on investment. The time has come for our dollars to follow our research and our rhetoric. As a global community, we can no longer afford to look away” (2/13).

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Aidspan Publishes New Issue Of ‘Global Fund Observer’

Aidspan, an independent watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has published Issue 237 of its “Global Fund Observer.” The issue includes an article on the challenges of South Sudan’s malaria program; an article supporting the integration of TB and HIV programs; and an article on a UNAIDS special report on the spread of HIV in Asia, among others (2/18).

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