KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

A.U. Special Summit On HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria Concludes In Abuja

“The Special Summit of the African Union on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ended in Abuja Tuesday with the leaders recommitting themselves to the declaration they made at a similar meeting in 2001, to increase funding towards finding solution to the diseases,” Nigeria’s The Guardian reports. “In April 2001, African Union countries meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, pledged to increase government funding for health to at least 15 percent, and urged donor countries to scale up support. Statistics from the [WHO] indicate that one African country has reached that target as of 2011,” the newspaper writes, adding, “During a briefing at the end of the summit, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan; chairperson of the African Union, Dr. Hailemariam Dessalegn; and chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Zuma, spoke on the declaration of the 2013 Summit and promised, on behalf of A.U. member countries, to accelerate the implementation of the earlier ‘Abuja Commitments’ and step up the mobilization of domestic resources to strengthen the health system” (Abubakar et al., 7/16).

“The Summit Declaration called for increased coverage and access to TB detection and treatment for all, including for multi-drug resistant TB, TB in children and a special focus on vulnerable groups,” Africa Science News notes, adding, “It also called for a stronger involvement of communities in TB interventions and for increased integration of HIV and TB programs” (Neondo, 7/16). Participants “also agreed to implement effective and targeted poverty elimination strategies and social protection programs that integrate the three diseases for all, particularly vulnerable populations; review relevant laws and policies at national and regional level to strengthen rights-based protection for all vulnerable and key populations in the context of the three diseases; and increase access to prevention programs targeting the youth, especially young women, to ensure an AIDS-free generation,” Bernama reports. “Other declarations include to integrate sexual and reproductive health and family planning and HIV/AIDS services through reinforcing action on earlier commitments to enhance maternal, newborn and child health status; integrate HIV and TB programs; and accelerate the scaling up of technology for early diagnosis and treatment of the three diseases,” the news agency writes (7/17).

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FDA Issues Emergency Authorization For MERS Diagnostic Test; WHO's MERS Advisory Committee To Resume Meeting

“The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization on Tuesday for a diagnostic test to detect the presence of the Middle East coronavirus at the request of the [CDC],” Reuters reports. “The emergency approval follows the Health and Human Services secretary’s determination that the virus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which has killed at least 40 people, poses a potential public health threat,” the news agency notes (Steenhuysen, 7/16). The “WHO’s 15-member MERS-CoV emergency advisory committee meets in a teleconference again on July 17 at noon Geneva time,” CIDRAP News reports, adding, “The group’s first meeting, held July 9, was an inaugural session that focused on background briefings. At that time the panel decided it needed more time to further discuss and consider the situation” (Schnirring, 7/15). “The experts, pulled together by the [WHO] under powers given it by the International Health Regulations (the IHR), are expected to advise WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan on Wednesday whether she should declare MERS a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ or PHEIC,” the Canadian Press writes. “If the WHO declares MERS a public health emergency of international concern, it would add weight to its calls for quick and full reporting of all cases and to its recommendations to countries to be on the lookout for MERS cases,” the news agency notes (Branswell, 7/16).

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U.N., Governments Taking Action To Curb Violence Against Women

Noting that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month told the U.N. Security Council “that sexual violence occurred wherever conflicts raged, ‘devastating survivors and destroying the social fabric of whole communities,'” Inter Press Service reports “the United Nations is unleashing an army of Women Protection Advisers (WPAs) to specifically curb sexual violence in war zones.” First, the WPAs “will be deployed with peacekeeping missions in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, [Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)], Mali and Somalia,” the news service notes. “Asked if these WPAs will be confined to Africa, Andre-Michel Essoungou of the Public Affairs Division at the U.N.’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support told IPS, ‘There is no restriction to a region of the world in this regard. But the process is starting with these missions for the time being,'” the news service writes (Deen, 7/16). In a separate article, IPS reports on how human rights advocates are using the legal system in India “to protect women against violence, and [push] for harsh punitive measures against those who violate women’s rights” (Biswas, 7/16).

On Tuesday, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, speaking “at an event in New York on harnessing the power of technology to prevent violence against women and girls,” said, “Technology has enormous power to highlight and record human rights violations and to raise awareness so that we change mindsets and deal with violence at its roots,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Eliasson “also highlighted the secretary general’s global campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women, which is successfully mobilizing governments, civil society and other partners to end this global scourge,” the news service notes (7/16).

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U.N. Announces Additional Emergency Funding; Humanitarian Aid Lacking For Children, Elderly, NGO Report Says

“The United Nations humanitarian chief today announced the allocation of some $72 million from an emergency fund to assist people in neglected crises in 12 countries around the world,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “This latest allocation brings the total amount provided by the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to an unprecedented $172 million in a single year, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a news release,” the news service writes. U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said, “This money will save lives by ensuring that humanitarian organizations can continue to support the most vulnerable men, women and children caught in the midst of devastating disasters and conflicts,” according to the news service (7/16). “The funds will support vital humanitarian aid in Bangladesh, Chad, Colombia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Haiti, Madagascar, Mauritania, Myanmar, Niger, Pakistan, the Philippines and Somalia,” according to the OCHA press release, Xinhua reports (7/17).

Meanwhile, a new report from HelpAge International — endorsed by Save the Children U.K. — examined the 2012 Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), “which covers both U.N. and [non-governmental organization (NGO)] relief activities, [and found] about two percent of project proposals targeted older people, and about four percent were specifically aimed at children under five,” Thomson Reuters Foundation notes. “Only around 55 percent of these projects were actually funded,” according to the report, which found “projects for young children fared better, getting 12 percent of the $5.8 billion donated by governments, while those for older people were allocated a mere one percent,” Reuters writes. “Of 2,800 projects analyzed from last year’s CAP, ‘2,446 made no mention, at any point, of two groups that are likely to make up over one third of the population, and whose needs are distinct from those of other groups,’ the report said,” according to the news service (Rowling, 7/17).

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BuzzFeed Examines HIV Among Women Who Have Sex With Women In South Africa

BuzzFeed examines the issue of HIV among women who have sex with women in South Africa, highlighting a recent study that found “around 10 percent of women who have sex with women in four Southern Africa countries are HIV-positive.” According to BuzzFeed, “The study suggests that the main source of infection among lesbians is likely rape. Women are sexually assaulted in South Africa more often than almost anywhere in the world, and lesbians are often targeted out of the belief that it will ‘cure’ them of same-sex attraction. And their trauma is often compounded when they seek help from police or health care workers after they’ve been attacked, keeping them from getting tested or treated for HIV.” Despite this, when a lesbian is diagnosed with HIV, it “raises suspicion among lesbians that a woman has betrayed the community by choosing to have sex with men. And this can cause the support network women have struggled to build to evaporate,” the news service writes. “These women regularly are burying women who have lost their lives in homophobic assaults and fighting an incredibly difficult campaign to try to get authorities to take the threat of hate crimes seriously. They are burying still more whose lives are cut short by HIV. At the same time, though, many of those HIV-related deaths seem to result from the stigma that remains unconfronted within their own community,” BuzzFeed states. The article includes comments from several members of the LGBT advocacy community in South Africa (Feder, 7/16).

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The Guardian Interviews Indian Philosopher, Economist Amartya Sen About New Book On Development In India

In a video interview with The Guardian, “Nobel prize-winning Indian philosopher and economist Amartya Sen discusses his new book, ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions.'” The newspaper notes, “He argues that there is a real need for rethinking development priorities in India, despite the country’s many achievements in IT and generic medicines,” adding, “If you judge India by the quality of human life, he says, there are huge gaps between rich and poor” (7/16). “Despite all the comfort and prestige of his status in the U.K. and the U.S. — he teaches at Harvard — [Sen] hasn’t forgotten the urgency of the plight of India’s poor, which he first witnessed as a small child in the midst of the Bengal famine of 1943,” The Guardian writes in a related article profiling Sen and discussing the contents of the book, co-written with his colleague Jean Drèze. “Despite considerable economic growth and increasing self-confidence as a major global player, modern India is a disaster zone in which millions of lives are wrecked by hunger and by pitiable investment in health and education services,” the newspaper continues, adding, “The details are outrageous but the outlines of this story are familiar and Sen and Drèze are losing patience (they have collaborated on several previous books) and their last chapter is entitled ‘The Need for Impatience.’ They want attention, particularly from the vast swath of the Indian middle classes who seem indifferent to the wretched lives of their neighbors” (Bunting, 7/16).

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Editorials and Opinions

Maritime Industry Will Continue To Advocate Status Quo In Food For Peace Program

“The Food for Peace Program (PL-480) has been in the forefront of Washington, D.C., maritime issues for the past six months and will most likely continue to be a main concern in the near future,” Captain Lee Kincaid, president of the American Maritime Congress (AMC), writes in a Maritime Executive opinion piece. He summarizes congressional discussion on the program, noting the Obama administration has proposed shifting some Food for Peace funding to be more flexible, allowing for local and regional food purchasing and the use of food vouchers, instead of requiring U.S. food be shipped on U.S. flag vessels. He notes the House’s rejection of an amendment to the Farm Bill that would have “accomplish[ed] the same changes to food aid as requested by the president,” and writes, “Be assured, the continuing struggle to maintain the U.S. Food for Peace Program and the U.S. flag cargo preference portion of the program is far from over.”

“Transparency, accountability and reliability are strong arguments for maintaining the U.S. commodity and cargo preference food aid program,” Kincaid writes, adding, “American farmer-grown crops in bags proudly displaying the U.S. flag and delivered on U.S. flag ships by U.S. mariner crews sends the message that America does care.” He concludes, “AMC continues to press forward to make the case and coordinate maritime industry efforts to keep our U.S. food aid program and all other cargo preference programs in place” (7/16).

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Political Will Necessary To Uphold Commitments Made At Conferences Such As A.U. Health Summit

“Dubbed a ‘special summit’ on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the [African Union] summit has brought together African leaders in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to discuss progress in alleviating the threats posed by the three diseases,” Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa writes in the news service’s “Africa” blog. “And yet a trip to Abuja+12 to discuss ‘progress’ could be considered superfluous,” he states, adding, “A simple stroll down to a local clinic in Yibe, Addis Ababa or Khayelitsha in Cape Town or Kibera in Nairobi would give a true account of actual progress made in combating these diseases on the continent.” He continues, “For anyone ever affected by TB, malaria or HIV/AIDS, directly or indirectly, which is a majority of Africans, these summits and their grandly worded commitments usually mean little.”

“Commitments, as they turn out, are a lot more difficult in practice than they are in principle,” Essa writes, adding, “In fact, despite the notion of an ‘Africa Rising,’ the continent still has just two percent of the world’s physicians and accounts for just one percent of health spending.” He continues, “Of course, it is not all doom and gloom. There has been remarkable progress in countries that are not plagued by conflict.” He provides statistics about health and development in Africa and states, “The resurgent interest in the continent has injected an optimistic realism to segments of African leadership who recognize that only a healthy population can take advantage of Africa’s potential. Not only do Africans feel more empowered to tackle their own problems, advancements in generic medical technology offers far more accessible, cheaper solutions.” He concludes, “Crucially, a new, connected, youthful generation will demand that these issues are taken seriously” (7/16).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Members Of Congress Relaunch Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus

On Tuesday, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) “joined together to relaunch the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus for the 113th Congress,” according to press release from the caucus. “In the 113th Congress, the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus will explore opportunities and support policy initiates that help achieve an AIDS-free generation in the United States and around the world,” the press release states, adding, “More specifically, the caucus will focus on domestic and international HIV/AIDS programs and initiatives, as well research efforts that can lead to a vaccine — and eventually a cure.” Lee, Ros-Lehtinen and McDermott serve as co-chairs of the caucus, the press release notes (7/16).

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WHO Examines Global NTD Response

A WHO press release provides an update on the global response to neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The press release highlights a new report from the agency, titled “Sustaining the Drive to Overcome the Global Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases,” “which charts progress in controlling, eliminating and eradicating these ancient illnesses”; discusses a resolution on all 17 NTDs adopted at the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva in May 2013; and notes “[i]nternational experts, partners and national program managers will gather in the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific for two key meetings on NTDs — the Western Pacific Region Program Managers Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases from July 16-18, 2013, and the Western Pacific Regional Program Review Group on Lymphatic Filariasis and Other Neglected Tropical Diseases on July 19, 2013” (7/15).

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Zambia Working To Address HIV/AIDS Among Youth, Especially Women

Writing in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, discusses her travel to Zambia as an International Reporting Project Zambia Fellow, and how the country is addressing HIV/AIDS among the youth population. “The Zambian government is working through community youth groups that are funded in part by USAID, called Safe Love Clubs, that actively encourage an open dialogue about HIV education and prevention,” she notes, adding, “While Zambia is opening up more about HIV/AIDS education and preventative measures to bring the infection rate down women still are not listened to by men” (7/16).

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Pilot Program In South Africa Provides Pregnant Women, New Mothers With Health Information

“According to UNICEF, 4,300 mothers die in South Africa every year due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth, 20,000 babies are stillborn and another 23,000 die in their first month of life,” Imani Cheers, a multimedia producer and assistant professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. She describes a program called MAMA, which “provides pregnant women and new mothers with vital information and support using their mobile phones, through five different channels, including an interactive website, text messages, social networking and voicemails.” Cheers writes, “MAMA South Africa faces many challenges, including literacy rates among users and he high cost of text messages,” and she notes the program “is ending the pilot phase … and working on gearing up to increase the scale and reach of the mobile service with a goal of reaching 500,000 mothers by 2015” (7/16).

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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 222 of its “Global Fund Observer.” The issue includes an article on France’s announcement “that it will contribute approximately $467 million a year to the Global Fund for the period 2014-2016,” an article examining the Global Fund’s Grant Management Assurance Framework, and an article on “[a] new report from Open Society Foundations [which] says that local civil society participated extensively in the development of concept notes in Myanmar and Zimbabwe,” among others (7/17).

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