KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Latin American Nations Must Consider Access To Contraceptives, Abortion, Human Rights Of Women When Formulating Zika Responses, U.N., Experts Say

CNSNews.com: U.N. Human Rights Chief Urges Expanded Access to Contraception, Abortion in Light of Zika Virus
“U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged Latin American governments Friday to increase access to ‘reproductive health services,’ including emergency contraception and abortion, in light of the rise of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Brazil which is suspected to be linked to a birth defect called microcephaly…” (Brown, 2/7).

Financial Times: U.N. risks Zika clash with Latin America leaders
“…The mosquito-borne disease is sparking a debate in Latin America over the use of contraceptives and abortion. Countries such as Brazil have some of the toughest laws on abortion in the world thanks to a large evangelical faction in congress…” (Leahy, 2/5).

FiveThirtyEight: Asking Women To Avoid Pregnancy Is Absurd, Even In The Face Of Zika
“…[Jen Kates, vice president and director of global health & HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation,] says women in rural areas, poor women, young women, and victims of sexual violence have all been known to have even higher rates of pregnancies they didn’t plan. These numbers are high in part because access to contraceptives varies greatly depending on where you are — and who you are…” (Barry-Jester, 2/5).

The Guardian: U.N. tells Latin American countries hit by Zika to allow women access to abortion
“… ‘Women cannot solely bear the burden of curbing the Zika virus,’ said Charles Abbott, the [Center for Reproductive Rights’] legal adviser for Latin America & the Caribbean. … Reproductive rights advocates say the recommendations to avoid pregnancy are irresponsible and do not take into account that most pregnancies in the region are unplanned…” (Watts, 2/5).

Reuters: Condom makers step up to help with Zika effort
“Condom makers including Ansell Ltd are offering to help Zika-affected countries after the first case of the virus being sexually transmitted added to growing concerns over the spread of the disease…” (Penumudi/Banerjee, 2/5).

U.N. News Centre: Upholding women’s human rights essential to Zika response — U.N. rights chief
“…The High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR) underlined that amid the continuing spread of the Zika virus, authorities must ensure that their public health response is pursued in conformity with their human rights obligations, in particular relating to health and health-related rights…” (2/5).

USA TODAY: U.N.: Zika-affected nations must increase contraception access
“…In many Latin American and Caribbean countries, basic contraception, such as birth control pills and IUDs, is in short supply. The Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Nicaragua ban all abortions, according to a report released Tuesday by Kaiser Family Foundation. Six others — Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela — allow abortion only to save a woman’s life…” (Lackey, 2/5).

Washington Post: How a Zika-like illness helped change Americans’ views of abortion
“…[A]s the crisis continues to evolve, if governments proscribe whether women should have children, it will likely force at least some discussion of reproductive health issues into the open. ‘What women face in these challenges have been there for awhile, and are big challenges to women before Zika was introduced,’ said Jennifer Kates, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. ‘If anything, Zika is raising awareness of the challenges women face every day’…” (Johnson, 2/5).

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U.S. Lawmakers Call On Obama Administration To Establish Zika Virus Response Plan As Outbreak Becomes Presidential Campaign Issue

The Hill: Dems press Obama on plan for Zika
“…All 44 [Senate] Democrats, as well as Independent Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine), sent a letter to Obama, saying the administration needs to come up with a ‘coordinated interagency response plan’…” (Carney, 2/5).

The Hill: Abortion-rights group pushes GOP candidates on Zika virus
“…Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, sent a letter to Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump, who are all running for president, asking that they at least temporarily ‘support universal contraceptive coverage’ until the country has a better understanding of the Zika virus…” (Carney, 2/5).

Reuters: Republican U.S. presidential hopefuls say Zika quarantine may be needed
“Two Republican U.S. presidential hopefuls said on Saturday they would implement quarantines of travelers if necessary to stop the spread of the Zika virus. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who garnered international attention in 2014 when he quarantined a nurse who returned to the United States after treating Ebola patients, said he would not hesitate to do it again. … Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, said using a quarantine is ‘not a simple issue’ but if there was evidence that Zika infection is spreading, he too would utilize a quarantine…” (Gibson, 2/7).

Roll Call: As Zika Virus Reaches D.C., Congress Calls for Action
“As the Zika virus reaches the United States and the nation’s capital, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for an urgent response to prevent its spread, and are scheduling briefings and committee hearings to address it…” (Bowman, 2/5).

Scientific American: Why We Shouldn’t Quarantine Travelers Because of Zika
“…There is no evidence that individuals who have acquired Zika abroad are causing transmission of the virus within the U.S., and isolating people with Zika symptoms in the U.S. would be impractical and unnecessary, according to a number of infectious disease experts contacted by Scientific American…” (Maron, 2/7).

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Men Who Visit Zika-Affected Areas Should Use Condoms, Consider Sexual Abstinence, Especially With Pregnant Partners, CDC Says

News outlets report on the CDC’s Interim Guidelines for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus — United States, 2016.

Associated Press: CDC: Men who were in Zika areas should use condoms
“U.S. health officials issued guidelines Friday to prevent the sexual transmission of the Zika virus, telling men who have been to outbreak areas to use condoms during sex with pregnant women. The guidance also suggests the men might consider abstaining or using condoms even with a partner who isn’t pregnant. It doesn’t recommend that men without symptoms be tested for the virus…” (Stobbe, 2/5).

CNN: CDC issues new safe-sex guidelines around Zika virus
“…While saying that the situation with Zika is ‘evolving rapidly’ and that much had been learned in just the past two weeks, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden stressed in a news briefing that the primary concern with Zika at this time is protecting pregnant women and their unborn babies from a neurological disorder known as microcephaly…” (LaMotte/Pearson, 2/5).

The Hill: CDC steps up warnings about sexual transmission of Zika virus
“…Little is known about the link between the virus and a birth defect called microcephaly — something that CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said is a priority for national and global research…” (Ferris, 2/5).

Washington Post: CDC’s advice on Zika: You may need to consider avoiding sex
“…Mosquitoes remain the primary way Zika is spread, and preventing bites is the best way to avoid infection. But the CDC said it was issuing the interim recommendations to stop sexual transmission, however rare, because of concerns over Zika’s potential link to birth defects…” (Sun/Miroff, 2/5).

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Brazilian Researchers Detect Zika In Urine, Saliva, Continue Search For Answers On Virus's Transmission Routes, Effects On Newborns

Agence France-Presse: Zika detected in urine, saliva: top Brazilian researchers
“Brazil’s top research institute said Friday that Zika has been detected in urine and saliva, but added that there is no proof the virus can be transmitted through those fluids…” (2/5).

New York Times: Brazil Finds Zika Virus in Human Urine and Saliva, but Risk Is Unclear
“…The Brazilian researchers warned that the virus might have the potential to spread through kissing or urine, but they were quick to point out that this still remains to be proved…” (Sreeharsha et al., 2/5).

New York Times: How a Medical Mystery in Brazil Led Doctors to Zika
“A sudden, sharp increase in babies with ‘no foreheads and very strange heads’ was baffling doctors in Brazil. That set off a search for answers that led to a little-known pathogen, the Zika virus…” (McNeil et al., 2/6).

Reuters: Brazil finds Zika in saliva, urine; expert warns against kissing
“…This marked the first time the mosquito-borne infection that has prompted a global health scare has been detected in saliva and urine, the scientists told reporters in Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 summer Olympic Games in August…” (Fonseca et al., 2/5).

Wall Street Journal: Brazil Health Researchers Say Zika Virus Is Active in Saliva, Urine
“…Speaking at a separate news conference on Friday, Tom Frieden, director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was little data on the likelihood of Zika virus transmission through saliva or urine, and only three confirmed cases of transmission through sexual contact…” (Kiernan et al., 2/5).

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WHO Needs $25M For 6-Month Program To Address Zika; E.U. Establishes Drug Regulator Task Force To Advise On Virus Vaccines, Treatments

Reuters: WHO seeks $25 million for six-month fight against Zika, official says
“The World Health Organization will seek $25 million for a six-month program to fight the Zika virus linked to birth defects, including studies on whether it is spread by sex or by blood transfusion, a senior WHO official told Reuters on Friday…” (Nebehay, 2/5).

Reuters: E.U. drugs agency sets up Zika task force to speed vaccine work
“Europe’s drugs regulator said on Monday it had established an expert task force on Zika to advise companies working on vaccines and medicines against the virus, which is suspected of causing a spike in birth defects in Brazil…” (Hirschler, 2/8).

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Latin American, Caribbean Nations Address Zika Virus Outbreaks, Especially Among Pregnant Women, Newborns

GlobalPost: There’s a chance Venezuela’s Zika outbreak is worse than Brazil’s (Tegel, 2/5).

Reuters: Puerto Rico declares public health emergency over Zika virus (Davies/Cohen, 2/5).

Reuters: Doctors puzzle over severity of defects in some Brazilian babies (Berkrot/Boadle, 2/8).

USA TODAY: More than 3,100 pregnant women infected with Zika in Colombia (Stanglin, 2/6).

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Americans' Views On U.S. Foreign Aid Skewed, According To Kaiser Family Foundation Poll, VOA News Reports

VOA News: U.S. Gives Less Foreign Aid than Americans Think
“The United States will spend $37.9 billion on foreign aid in 2016. … But it still amounts to less than one percent of the U.S. government’s $4 trillion budget. Most Americans believe the percentage is far greater. The Kaiser Family Foundation last year asked 1,500 Americans what portion of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average answer was 25 percent, Kaiser said. That is 25 times the correct percentage…” (Ritter/Alpert, 2/8).

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NIH AIDS Research Budget To Remain About $3B In FY16, Agency Confirms To CQ

CQ HealthBeat: NIH AIDS Research Budget Held Flat at $3 Billion in Fiscal 2016
“The National Institutes of Health on Friday confirmed for CQ HealthBeat that its spending on AIDS research would be about $3 billion for fiscal 2016, the same level as the previous budget year. The projection is one of many medical research estimates that health advocates were waiting to see on Feb. 9 with the release of the White House’s fiscal 2017 budget request…” (Young, 2/5).

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WHO, UNICEF Working With Benin Government To Respond To Lassa Fever Outbreak

U.N. News Centre: U.N. agencies mobilize to support government response after Benin confirms cases of Lassa fever
“After the identification of four cases of Lassa fever in Benin, the government, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has immediately launched a response against the epidemic, the agencies announced [Friday]. To date, 25 suspected cases among which 12 deaths have been identified. Among the deceased, four cases of Lassa fever have been confirmed as positive…” (2/5).

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Malawi Experiencing Food Shortages After Fertilizer Grant Program Scaled Back

Reuters: In southern Africa, an illusion built on aid heralds hope and hunger
“…Drought and floods have hit the maize crop, exposing the fragility of gains which had seen Malawi’s rates of malnutrition slashed in the past two decades. That progress was partly rooted in a fertilizer grant for small-scale farmers. But now the government, starved of donor funds following a graft scandal over two years ago, can ill afford such payments and says it must scale down the program. Ironically, policies aimed at ensuring basic food security are partly to blame for a cycle of rural poverty and aid dependency in this land-locked African nation, leaving the population vulnerable to climate shocks, economists say…” (Stoddard/Banda, 2/7).

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Stigma Surrounding HIV/AIDS Persists In South Africa's Rural Villages

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Despite treatment advances, AIDS stigma lingers in rural South Africa
“…Over the last decade, an HIV-positive diagnosis has turned from a death sentence to a manageable problem in South Africa, due to cheap, widely available antiretroviral treatment. … But the stigma surrounding the disease has barely budged, particularly in rural areas like Qudeni, a remote village in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province where hundreds of children have been left orphaned by the virus…” (Goering, 2/7).

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Former U.S. President Carter Hopes To Witness Guinea Worm Eradication

The Economist: Going, going…
“…[Former U.S. President Jimmy] Carter says he hopes to outlive the last Guinea worm. Though he is now 91, that is a plausible ambition. All 22 of the worms that were recorded last year have now emerged, and are dead. It is therefore likely that Mali, Ethiopia, and South Sudan are now rid of the awful creature, though there needs to be a worm-free period of three years to be sure…” (2/6).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Discuss Issues Surrounding Zika Virus, Including Women's Rights, Economic Cost, Outbreak Containment

The Interpreter: The Zika Virus won’t be ‘Ebola 2.0’
Allira Attwill, health policy and health economics consultant

“…[T]he world is fixated on Zika, wondering if it will be ‘Ebola 2.0.’ But it won’t be, partly because of its mode of transmission, partly because Zika is unfolding in a post-Ebola world, but mainly because Latin America is not West Africa. Health systems are largely stronger and governments better able to deal with public health emergencies … Also, PAHO (WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas) is not WHO-AFRO … and the WHO is much better prepared, cautious, and eager to show the world that it can be what we need it to be: a true leader in global health. The international community’s thorough and swift handling of Zika suggests that governments and the WHO learned from the devastation caused by Ebola” (2/5).

New York Times: The Zika Virus and Brazilian Women’s Right to Choose
Debora Diniz, founder of Anis — Institute of Bioethics and law professor at the University of Brasília

“…The Zika epidemic has given Brazil a unique opportunity to look at inequality and reproductive rights, and to change how the country treats women. Asking women to avoid pregnancy without offering the necessary information, education, contraceptives, or access to abortion is not a reasonable health policy. Sexual and reproductive rights for all women, poor and rich, must be taken seriously. The government should immediately offer a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health care to all Brazilian women, with a specific focus on those at most risk of Zika infection. … The government must finally give women basic control over their reproductive lives — accessible and affordable contraception, and safe and legal abortion…” (2/8).

Bloomberg View: The Economic Cost of Zika Virus
Mac Margolis, Bloomberg View contributor

“…How much will the virus cost? It’s too soon to calculate. … But some idea of the potential financial havoc the disease might wreak can be gleaned by looking at another sickness spread via the Aedes mosquito: dengue. … Donald Shepard, a health economist at Brandeis University, ran the numbers and concluded that in 2013 dengue cost the global economy $8.9 billion. … True, the comparison with Zika is not perfect. Dengue has a greater global reach … [and the calculations do] not include the toll on tourism. … With Zika, stocks of travel companies have already slumped ‘after U.S. health officials warned pregnant women and those planning pregnancies against visiting affected areas such as Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Barbados,’ according to Bloomberg Intelligence. That’s bad news for recession-ridden Brazil…” (2/5).

Huffington Post: Nigeria Contained Ebola; Can We Contain Lassa Fever and Zika Virus?
Toyin Ojora-Saraki, founder-president of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa

“…[Nigeria] was among the first West African nations to contain the recent Ebola outbreak, as a result of rapid action, resilience, and resources, and widespread health education. Lessons from our fight against Ebola can be applied to the recent outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria … The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) and I have taken rapid steps to elevate awareness of this deadly disease and its prevention, in line with our health education efforts across Nigeria. Our strong health education platform, #MaternalMonday, is designed to engage and empower individuals on a range of health issues related to health. In light of warnings from the World Health Organization, WBFA and I have taken steps to educate women globally about Zika virus and the risks that the virus poses to their health and the health of their children through our #MaternalMonday campaign. We believe that through health education and rapid awareness efforts, we can prevent an outbreak from turning into an epidemic…” (2/8).

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E.U.'s Efforts To End FGM Should Address Underlying Discrimination Of Girls, Women

Devex: We can end FGM in a generation
Madina Bocoum Daff, female genital mutilation project manager at Plan International Mali

“…[Female genital mutilation (FGM)] is a major violation of a girl’s rights and a brutal manifestation of the violence and discrimination to which girls and women the world over are subjected. It has no justification and must be stopped. … The European Union can and must play an important role in eradicating FGM. Through … its action plans on both gender equality and women’s empowerment, and human rights and democracy, the E.U. has reaffirmed its commitment to this cause. … But such measures alone will not succeed in ending FGM once and for all, because the practice is upheld and perpetuated by long-held belief systems and traditions which are fundamentally discriminatory. Tackling this underlying discrimination against girls must therefore be at the heart of the E.U.’s external action…” (2/5).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Strategic Health Diplomacy Could Enhance LAC Region's Health Care Sector, U.S. National Interests

Harvard Kennedy School Review: An Application of Strategic Health Diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean: The U.S. Southern Command
Richard Menger, a neurosurgery resident, Hale Champion Public Service fellow, master in public administration candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a lieutenant in the Navy Medical Corps; Anil Nanda, professor and chair of neurosurgery at LSU Health Sciences Center; and Bill Frist, heart and lung transplant surgeon, former U.S. senator from Tennessee, co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Project, and founder and chair of Hope Through Healing Hands, discuss the role of strategic health diplomacy (SHD) in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) through the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), writing, “By addressing global health in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), the United States can save lives and improve its national strategic interests. … The long-term humanitarian aid of strategic health diplomacy can save lives, begin to reduce inequity, and look to foster regional health care leadership in regions of strategic importance…” (2/3).

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Feed The Future Makes Progress Toward Ending Global Hunger

Feed the Future Blog: Forward Progress in the Fight to End Global Hunger
Beth Dunford, assistant to the administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Food Security and deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future, discusses Feed the Future’s efforts and progress toward ending global hunger (2/4).

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Performing Arts Raises Awareness Of FGM/C In Egypt

U.S. Department of State’s “DipNote”: Breaking the Silence on FGM/C in Egypt: One Activist’s Story
Catherine Russell, ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, speaks with Nada Sabet, activist and co-founder and current manager of Noon Creative Enterprise, about how her organization is using performing arts and working with UNFPA to raise awareness of and end the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Egypt (2/5).

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WHO Executive Board Addresses R&D Agenda Items In Preparation For World Health Assembly

Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs”: WHO Board addresses health R&D, sets March meeting to discuss CEWG resolution
Jana Armstrong, a consultant for GHTC, discusses R&D agenda items for the WHO Executive Board meeting that took place at the end of January in preparation for the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting in May. During the meeting, the Executive Board also “put forward three resolutions for consideration at the WHA in May that have clauses related to R&D.” Armstrong includes discussion of the follow-up of the report of the Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on R&D (2/5).

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Experts Discuss Zika Virus, Response Efforts, Impact On Brazil During CFR Conference Call

Council on Foreign Relations: Zika Virus Update
In this transcript of a conference call hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at CFR, and Cláudio Maierovitch Pessanha Henriques, director of the Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance at the Federative Republic of Brazil’s Ministry of Health, “discuss the Zika virus health emergency, its impact on Brazil, and actions that need to be taken to prevent a crisis,” and answer questions from callers (2/5).

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