How the Department of Defense battles infectious diseases, country ownership concerns, Zambia trial of HIV activist and more — we’re reading about breakthroughs and breakdowns in global health efforts

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NewWWRThe U.S. Department of Defense and Global Health: Infectious Disease Efforts - Building on its report last year that examined the role of the Defense Department in researching and responding to global health threats, the Kaiser Family Foundation today released a close up look at how the department contributes to and interacts with efforts to fight infectious diseases around the world. The DoD’s stake in the efforts is significant, with infectious diseases outstripping battle injuries as a cause of deaths and incapacitation in some past armed conflicts. The department’s contribution also is significant, including the first typhoid vaccine, discovery of how yellow fever is transmitted, and, most recently the clinical research trial in Thailand that yielded the first proof that a vaccine to prevent HIV could be effective. This report looks at those contributions, and the policies and partners that have made them possible.

Country Ownership and the turning point for HIV/AIDS - In case you missed it last week, this Lancet column by amfAR’s Chris Collins and IAS President-elect Dr. Chris Beyrer of Johns Hopkins lays out the risks of turning donor HIV responses over to “country ownership” before countries are ready. While highlighting that country contributions in indigenous knowledge, political leadership, and health system building are essential to effective HIV responses, the column points to four areas where a hasty transitions country ownership can do harm: in slowing scale-up of critical services at a critical time, in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable populations, (including men who have sex with men, people involved in sex work and people who inject drugs) that are currently almost entirely donor funded in most countries, in continuing input from civil society, and in an inability to finance needed interventions.

Zambia: ‘Gay’ Trial is Politically Motivated – Case in point, to at least one of the issues raised in the Lancet column above. Paul Kasonkomona had spent much of the 15 years he has lived with HIV fighting for treatment access for himself and others, and drawing attention to flawed interventions, when he went on Zambia’s Muvi TV to talk about the role of human rights recognition in fighting the epidemic. “The last thing I want to see . . .is a person who is HIV negative today testing HIV positive tomorrow,” were among his remarks, according to the article. He went on to make a case that all effective efforts be made to reach all affected people (about 12 percent of Zambia’s population live with HIV) including sexual minorities. The article goes on to recount the testimony of one of the trial’s first witnesses, who received a phone call that night from Pentecostal Bishop Joshua Banda, the head of Zambia’s National AIDS Council who has spoken out repeatedly against lifting the nation’s colonial era antihomosexuality laws, “alerting” him to Kasonkomona’s remarks. Stay turned — the trial will continue on Oct. 29, according to the article.

Violence based on perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa – This report looks at the forms, factors behind, and impacts of violence against people perceived to be members of sexual minorities across Africa. Factors included incendiary statements by political leaders; impacts, in addition to threats and harrassment that lead to lives lived in secrecy and fear, rape and murder, also include barriers to services for HIV and other illnesses.

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