KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

In Discussion Of MERS-CoV At WHA, WHO DG Says Patents Will Not Hinder Public Health

“Dutch scientists who took out a patent on the novel coronavirus that’s killed 22 people since emerging in Saudi Arabia last year defended the move after the Saudi Health Ministry said the patent was hindering the fight against the outbreak,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “The virus now known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, has sickened at least 44 people globally since June, and killed 22,” according to the WHO, the news service notes (Bennett, 5/23). “Saudi Arabia, where the first case occurred, has said the development of diagnostic tests for the disease has been delayed by [Erasmus Medical Center’s] patent rights on the SARS-like virus” after a viral sample “was taken out of the country without permission,” Reuters writes. “There was a lag of three months where we were not aware of the discovery of the virus,” Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish said at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, the news agency notes (Miles/Nebehay, 5/23).

At the meeting of the WHO’s governing body, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan “railed against the arrangement, which seemed to take some in the assembly hall by surprise,” the Associated Press writes, adding, “She pleaded with the hundreds of health officials at the annual [WHA] to ‘share your specimens with WHO collaborating centers, not in a bilateral manner'” (Heilprin, 5/23). According to Bloomberg, Chan continued, “Please, I’m very strong on this. … Making deals between scientists because they want to take out [intellectual property (IP)] and be the first to publish in scientific journals, we cannot allow that. No intellectual property should stand in the way of you protecting your people. Do you agree or not?” The news service notes, “The assembly applauded.” Bloomberg adds, “Albert Osterhaus and Ron Fouchier, virologists at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, said patenting the virus was a ‘normal thing to do,’ and that they have shared it freely with more than 40 labs worldwide.” Osterhaus said “[t]he suggestion that the patent was impeding progress in public health was ‘definitely not the case,'” according to Bloomberg (5/23). “Asked if he thought Erasmus had acted wrongly, [Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s assistant director-general for health security,] told reporters the WHO was completely focused on detecting the disease and preventing it from spreading further,” Reuters writes (5/23).

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Rainy Season In Haiti Brings Warnings Of Possible Cholera Resurgence

As the rainy season threatens to begin in Haiti, health care professionals and relief workers are warning of “the risk of a renewed cholera epidemic that first struck in October 2011,” Fox News reports. “[E]very rainy season, the number of cases spikes, as polluted water levels rise in a country that is already desperately short of safe drinking water and disinfectant supplies,” the news service writes, noting, “More than 656,000 people have been infected, and 8,090 died of water-borne cholera as of March 31, according to the Haitian health ministry.” Fox News continues, “Yet even as the risk of new infection grows, short-term medical treatment funds have been evaporating, and health care workers leaving, while the desperately poor Caribbean country still struggles to recover from the horrific earthquake of January 2010, which killed more than 158,000 people.”

Some humanitarian workers “put part of the blame for the shaky health situation on a $2.2 billion U.N. funding drive for a 10-year cholera eradication program, launched with considerable fanfare by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last December, but which in financial terms has barely managed to get off the ground,” Fox News writes. Many believe the cholera outbreak was caused by U.N. peacekeepers importing the infection into the country, the news service notes. “According to a U.N. spokesman, the world organization has allocated $23.5 million to the effort, which aims at creating safer water facilities, sanitation facilities and other forms of community hygiene to bring the disease, which had not appeared in Haiti in a century, under control,” the news service writes, adding, “As of early May, only about $17.7 million has been committed to various programs.” The article includes quotes from Duncan McLean, a health program manager for Médecins Sans Frontières; Rishi Rattan, advocacy chair for Physicians For Haiti, which recently “issued a ‘report card’ on the U.N.’s implementation of recommendations made by its own independent panel of experts in a May 2011 report on ways to combat epidemic”; and U.N. spokesperson Martin Nesirky (Russell, 5/23).

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Women Deliver President Discusses Conference, Development Goals In Times Of India Interview

In an interview with the Times of India, Jill Sheffield, president and founder of Women Deliver, discusses the upcoming Women Deliver 2013 conference, taking place next week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “Malaysia is a shining example of what smart investments and political will can do for the health and well-being of girls and women,” she said, noting the country has reduced maternal mortality rates more than 45 percent. “This is the first time one of our conferences will be in Asia, in a predominantly Muslim but truly multicultural society. We hope to share Malaysia’s lessons globally,” she said. Sheffield discusses the push to reach Millennium Development Goal 5 to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent, the positive impact of family planning, and the importance of tackling gender-based violence, according to the transcript (Karkaria, 5/24).

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Editorials and Opinions

Opinion Pieces Address Health And Well-Being Of Women, Girls

As the global health community prepares for the Women Deliver 2013 conference, taking place next week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and recognized the first International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on May 23, several news outlets published opinion pieces addressing different aspects of the health and well-being of women and girls. Some of those opinion pieces are summarized below.

  • Kate Grant, Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood”: “We have a long way to go to provide treatment to the enormous backlog of women with untreated fistula, let alone provide the emergency obstetric care needed to prevent the injury,” Grant, CEO of the Fistula Foundation, writes, adding, “But while there is no silver bullet to solving this global problem, our coordinated response is making headway” (5/23).
  • Babatunde Osotimehin, Inter Press Service: “At the Women Deliver conference, UNFPA will launch a new partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) to increase access to family planning in some of the world’s most hard-to-reach areas,” UNFPA Executive Director Osotimehin writes, noting the U.N. agency also “will co-host a symposium on the crucial, frontline role midwives play in lowering maternal deaths, reducing disabilities related to childbirth, and improving overall national health indicators” (5/23).
  • Lakshmi Puri, Inter Press Service: “World leaders recognized the pervasiveness of discrimination and violence against women and girls when they signed onto the visionary Millennium Declaration in 2000. Amongst the eight Millennium Development Goals, they included a goal to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment,” Puri, acting head of U.N. Women, writes, adding, “The discussions to shape the post-2015 global development agenda offer a real opportunity to drive lasting change for women’s rights and equality” (5/23).
  • John Seager, Huffington Post’s “World”: Seager, president of Population Connection, discusses “climate change resilience, or the real survival benefits family planning offers people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by our changing world.” He concludes, “Helping families have children only when they choose won’t eliminate the hardships of climate change. But it would give them a little more power over their futures. And that can mean the difference between barely surviving and thriving” (5/23).
  • Serra Sippel and Zeda Rosenberg, Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood”: “As the President of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and the CEO of the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), we believe that building on progress [on the health and well-being of women and girls] requires our global health and policy discussions to embrace a central truth: maternal health, family planning and HIV are inherently linked and must be addressed collectively,” Sippel and Rosenberg write (5/23).
  • Lakshmi Sundaram, Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network”: Through partnerships — “by building a sense of solidarity, pairing community-level efforts with national and international advocacy and encouraging a growing global movement on the issue” — the secretariat organization Girls Not Brides “[is] convinced it will be possible to provide parents with a viable alternative to child marriage for their daughters,” Sundaram, global coordinator for the group, writes (5/24).

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Obama Administration 'Should Adopt Evidence-Based Approaches' For HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care

“The Supreme Court is expected to rule next month in a case about whether the U.S. government can require organizations to denounce prostitution as a condition of funding for their international HIV/AIDS work,” Rebecca Schleifer, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch’s Health and Human Rights Program, and Darby Hickey, a policy analyst with the Best Practices Policy Project, write in a CNN opinion piece. “Regardless of the outcome of this case, it is important to recognize that forcing organizations to denounce sex work marginalizes sex workers and increases their risk of becoming infected with HIV,” they continue.

“President Obama has said he intends to set public policy based on evidence (or ‘science’), not ideology,” they write, noting, “The administration made a commitment to the U.N. Human Rights Council two years ago that it would address discrimination against sex workers.” However, “[d]efending the anti-prostitution pledge flies in the face of that commitment,” Schleifer and Hickey write, concluding, “Instead of allowing politics to dictate global HIV policy, the administration should adopt evidence-based approaches and partner with sex workers to ensure our common goals: an end to HIV, and human rights for all” (5/23).

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Nations, International Donors Must Keep Commitment To Ending AIDS

“Ghana is among the 29 African countries reported by the WHO to have been able to reduce prevalence of HIV and AIDS over the past decade,” Ghana President John Dramani Mahama writes in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. “While we can be proud of our response, we must recognize that the main challenge in the fight against HIV and AIDS globally is how to ensure Universal Access to prevention, treatment, care and support, and [ensure] zero transmission of new HIV infections in children,” he states.

“To be able to achieve these laudable goals, especially for us in sub-Saharan Africa, there is the need for us to invest in improving our weak health systems,” he writes, noting Ghana is investing $75 million for its domestic response against HIV/AIDS. Mahama also calls on “international donors to meet” the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s goal to raise $15 billion for 2014-2016. He concludes, “We can beat HIV and AIDS. But we can do this only if we continue to act together and prioritize HIV and AIDS as a major health threat to our global survival” (5/23).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Recognizing PEPFAR's 10th Anniversary

Writing in the Center for Global Development (CGD) blog, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a senior fellow at CGD, and Jenny Ottenhoff, policy outreach associate at the center, note the 10-year anniversary of PEPFAR and highlight “some major areas of consensus” from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board’s Data Working Group (DWG) “that we think are reflective of PEPAR’s past and future.” They outline successes and challenges as the program “matures from an emergency program to a sustainable, long-term response,” and they continue, “So while we mark PEPFAR’s 10th birthday and applaud the program’s success, we’re pleased that PEPFAR has also received 800+ pages of recommendations for the future. After all, this milestone should be less about celebration, and more about reforms that will usher PEPFAR through another decade of progress marked by sustainable partnerships with countries” (5/23).

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Examining World Bank President's Vision For Health, Development

Writing in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Todd Summers, a senior adviser with the CSIS Global Health Policy Center examines World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s evolving position on health, poverty alleviation and development, highlighting Kim’s “emphasis on accountability for results, and using data to drive investments.” Summers provides a list of “[c]ritical next steps” for Kim and the World Bank, and he writes, “Most importantly, we need the World Bank fully (re)engaged on health, and so it’s good to hear Dr. Kim making clear that this is his intention” (5/23).

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New Kaiser Resources Examine FY14 Budget Requests For HIV/AIDS And Global Health

The Kaiser Family Foundation on Thursday issued new analyses of the president’s FY 2014 budget request. U.S. Federal Funding for HIV/AIDS: The President’s FY 2014 Budget Request provides an overview of federal funding for HIV in the budget plan, highlighting funding for key domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs and comparisons over time. U.S. Funding for the Global Health: The President’s FY 2014 Budget Request looks at the Obama administration’s budget plan for global health, including support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other multilateral global health organizations, with breakouts for specific program areas and diseases (5/23).

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