The global health cost of the war on drugs: Laws targeting drug users that crowd prisons, serve as obstacle courses between drug users and HIV treatment, and push drug users into situations at high risk for HIV exposure — these are just part of How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic, this report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy says. At the same time, the report says, the war on drugs has diverted countries from following evidence-based approaches to contain the epidemic. It concludes that countries treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one, including some western European countries and Australia, have all but eliminated new HIV infections among drug users. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a team that includes former presidents and health policy experts from around the world, lists among its recommendations: an immediate and open review of the outcomes of drug policies, decriminalization of drug use, scaling up of evidence-based HIV interventions, and the involvement of people who are effected by drug and HIV-intervention policies.
Bringing the lab to the patient: The American Society for Microbiology looked at the needs and challenges for diagnostic tests that can be used in health care settings in places where resources are scarce, in this report. Tests would have to be “equipment-free” as well as affordable, user-friendly, and “robust and rapid,” the report’s creators point out. They also note that “the first order of business is rigorous evaluation of the overall cost-benefit ratio . . .” They suggest prioritizing development of “point of care diagnostic” tests for drug resistance and HIV monitoring, along with tests to identify strains of infection, diagnose central nervous system infections, and a capacity to measure indicators of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
A 20-minute immune-measuring test In the meantime, the Identity Kenya web site reports a device that measures the immune cell count of HIV patients within 20 minutes has been launched in Kenya, allowing health workers an accurate gauge of when patients need to start or change treatment.
Malawi could set a human rights example: An Inter Press News Service op-ed piece by Human Rights Watch researcher Monica Tabwenga looks at Malawi President Joyce Banda’s announced intention to decriminalize homosexuality in her country, concludes that Banda has a chance to make a necessary step forward if she works with civil society to address all human rights. With the impetus growing to unblock discriminatory obstacles to HIV/AIDS fighting efforts, this is an interesting analysis of an issue with unmeasured impact on global health.
A look at GHI goals, challenges: Reports from the Center for Health and Gender Equity — CHANGE — examine GHI’s progress and direction in Guatemala and Ethiopia to see if the plan is living up to its promise to focus on women, girls and gender equity, promote country ownership of healthcare, and integrate efforts to address public health issues. Stressing that GHI is “a work in progress,” CHANGE says the reports are intended as guidance. Among the recommendations: in Ethiopia the role of Ethiopian women in health efforts needs to be made clear, access to female condoms could be improved, and human rights training for health providers would streamline efforts to make sexual and reproductive health care available to women and girls. Among recommendations in Guatemala, the group finds that HIV prevention education could be included in all U.S.-funded family planning and maternal health problems, concluding: “each person has a right to this poetentially life-saving information.”