The following list of What We’re Reading is a compilation of recent releases and reports making headlines in global health:
HIV may afflict almost half Asia-Pacific transgenders (UN): According to a new report from the United Nations (UN), almost 50 percent of transgender people in the Asia-Pacific region could be HIV infected – with poor healthcare and high-risk lifestyles being the main culprits of the high infection rates. There are approximately 9 to 9.5 million transgender people living in that region. “Social exclusion, poverty and HIV infection contribute to what we call a ‘stigma sickness slope’ — a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse,” according to Sam Winter of Hong Kong University, author of the “Lost in Transition” study described in this piece by the UN Development Program.
HIV treatment reduces incidence of pre-cancerous cervical lesions and promotes their regression: HIV-infected women on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) had a lower incidence of pre-cancerous cervical lesions than those who were not, according to an article in the journal AIDS. Serial cervical smears were performed on HIV-infected women living in Soweto, South Africa. The investigators also found that compared to non-HAART users, women on HAART were more than twice as likely to exhibit regression of cervical lesions. Still, the study authors argue that their, “large prospective cohort study adds significant weight to the side of the balance of clinical research supporting the positive impact of HAART on the natural history of HPV-related cervical disease in HIV-infected women.”
New Trade Deal Would Benefit Big Pharma At AIDS Programs’ Expense: In this Huffington Post article, reporter Zach Carter updates readers on a potential trade deal – called the Trans Pacific Partnership – between the Obama administration and Vietnam and seven other Pacific nations. “According to leaked documents from the [trade] talks, U.S. negotiators are seeking to impose a set of restrictive intellectual property laws that would help American drug companies secure long-term monopolies overseas. The result? Higher prices for drugs,” according to the article. Advocates fear the policy could drive up the cost of AIDS drugs – translating into U.S. taxpayer dollars spent on global AIDS buying fewer drugs and treating fewer patients.
USAID Releases 2010-2011 Global Health and Child Survival Progress Report to Congress: In this report from The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the agency provides Congress an update for 2010-2011 on child survival and global health program areas, to include family planning and reproductive health, malaria, nutrition and immunization, among others. One of the report’s key findings, “in 2011, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. directly supported lifesaving antiretroviral treatment for more than 3.9 million men, women, and children worldwide, up from 67,000 in 2004. USAID is a key implementer of PEPFAR.” The report also highlights that in countries with TB programs supported by USAID, TB death rates between 1990 and 2010 dropped by 29 percent, and TB prevalence decreased by 14 percent.
U.S. HIV aid has prevented 741,000 deaths (study): According to an article in the Journal of the American Medicine Association, between 2004 and 2008 all-cause adult mortality declined in the 12 so-called “focus” countries receiving aid through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. “There were concerns that there’s been this shift in physicians and nurses (toward HIV clinics) to the detriment of other public health concerns,” said lead researcher Dr. Eran Bendavid, an infectious diseases specialist from Stanford University in California, according to Reuters. But, he added, “We can’t find evidence of unintended harms — or benefits. More or less we find that PEPFAR seems to have been very effective at reducing deaths, probably mostly HIV-specific deaths.”
Health Research at the Breaking Point: This report from Research! America discusses the consequences of the automatic spending cuts – or sequestration – that will take effect in January 2013 unless Congress intervenes. The estimated 7.8 percent across-the-board cut to federal programs would reduce funding for research agencies by approximately $3.6 billion in 2013 alone, the report authors argue. This translates into a $3.6 billion estimated cut to research agencies, including a $2.39 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health, $444.6 million cut to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and a $538.2 million cut to the National Science Foundation, critically impacting “innovative research and programs that save lives and drive economic growth.”
The CDC TB website is now available en español!: The Division of Tuberculosis Elimination (DTBE) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the launch of its new Spanish TB website. The site provides a variety of basic TB information on exposure, testing and treatment – and includes translated DTBE fact sheets, publications, posters and recorded video and audio podcasts in Spanish.