Also In Global Health News: HIV, Health Insurance In India; Measles Immunization Drive In Liberia; U.S. Aid To Egypt; Expansion Of Ugandan Pharma; Funding Cuts To Non-Profit Offering HIV/AIDS Drugs In Africa

Health Officials To Press For National Insurance Policy For People Living With HIV/AIDS

“India could soon see a national medical insurance policy for people living with HIV,” Times of India reports. Though HIV coverage is currently “excluded from all insurance policies available in the country … Union health ministry officials [have] said that HIV/AIDS … [is] now [considered to be] a ‘manageable health problem’ … [it] should be included in medical insurance policies,” the news service writes. India’s National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) will press the issue during a meeting with insurance companies and the Insurance Regulatory Development Agency, scheduled for Thursday (Sinha, 2/2).

Measles Immunization Drive Kicks Off In Liberia

The Liberian Ministry of Health, with support by UNICEF and the WHO, on Wednesday will launch a measles immunization drive targeting thousands of children between six months and 15 years in “an area hosting 32,000 Ivorian refugees fleeing political violence,” AlertNet reports (Fominyen, 2/1). “As of the end of January, five Liberian children between one and five years old had died of measles, two cases had been confirmed by the UN World Health Organization (WHO), and just over 100 suspected cases had been reported,” U.N. News Centre reports. The campaign, which aims to reach from both refugee and host communities in Nimba County, “will also integrate Vitamin A supplementation, which can reduce deaths associated with measles by up to 50 percent, as well as de-worming for children below five years old” (2/1). According to UNICEF, the immunization drive will last for seven days (2/1).

Lawmakers Say U.S. Should Not Suspend Aid To Egypt Immediately

As events in Egypt continue to unfold, “top White House officials and an increasing number of top lawmakers seem to agree that the U.S. should not suspend military aid to the Egyptian military in the near term,” Foreign Policy’s blog “The Cable” reports. After the White House said it was “reviewing” aid to Egypt, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “walked that back … ‘There is no discussion as of this time about cutting off any aid. We always are looking and reviewing our aid,'” according to the blog.

On Monday, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), who is chair of the House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee, said, “While there are calls for eliminating Egypt’s economic and military aid, I urge caution when deciding what the U.S. response will be … It is critical that we are deliberate about the actions we take. Egypt has been a moderate influence in the Middle East and has a peace agreement with Israel” (Rogin, 2/1). In related news, National Journal looks at how U.S. aid to Egypt might be affected by the situation. “Several lawmakers said that if the eventual alternative to Mubarak leads to political parties like the Muslim Brotherhood or any other Islamic fundamentalist group sharing power, the more than $1.5 billion in annual U.S. economic, military and other aid to Egypt could be in jeopardy. … It is unlikely U.S. lawmakers would act as swiftly as this month, though, to greatly alter the nation’s assistance to Egypt” (House/Strohm, 2/1).

Ugandan Pharmaceutical Company To Invest $80M For Expansion; Some Funds Will Go To Generic AIDS, Malaria Drug Plants

“Quality Chemicals Industries Ltd., a Ugandan pharmaceuticals manufacturer partly owned by India’s Cipla Ltd., said it plans to invest $80 million in two separate expansion programs over the next two years,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. According to the news service, $30 million of the funds will be used to expand the capacity of the company’s generic AIDS and malaria-drug plants, and $50 million will be put towards “a new production line for pharmaceutical ingredients.” Bloomberg notes that “Quality Chemicals’ plant in [the Ugandan capital city] Kampala has the capacity to produce 6 million malaria or generic AIDS tablets daily, with room for expansion, according to the company.” The piece notes the numbers of patients living with HIV/AIDS and malaria in Uganda as well as neighboring countries who could benefit from access to generic medications (Ojambo, 2/1).

Seattle Times Examines How U.S. Funding For Non-Profit Providing HIV/AIDS Drugs In Africa Was Cut Following Reports Of Fraud By Subcontractors

Seattle Times reports on how the Washington-based nonprofit Health Alliance International (HAI), which is working to expand HIV/AIDS treatments in Africa, was recently forced to cut its Seattle and Africa staff after the group’s application for a $100 million grant with USAID was rejected in August following reports of possible fraud by subcontractors working for HAI. The article describes the history of the HAI and its dependence on the U.S. government for “all but 7 percent of its funding,” which “grew steadily to employ about 40 people at its Seattle headquarters last year and about 1,000 people in Mozambique, most through the Ministry of Health. Its budget was about $21 million in 2009 but will drop to about $7 million this year,” the newspaper writes. The article notes USAID’s emphasis on strengthening accountability and the efforts by HAI to investigate the findings of the internal audit that exposed “irregularities” by a local NGO in Mozambique that provided home-based care and delivery of medical kits (Heim, 2/1).

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