Strong cases for U.S. investments in global health, listening to women when it comes to HIV prevention, a guide to Bedaquiline, and more

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WWRlogocolor_NewThe evidence on U.S. investments in foreign aid – In this issue brief, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, makes the case for why U.S. investments in foreign aid are beneficial for Americans as well as for developing countries.  Citing that foreign aid accounts for less than one percent of U.S. government spending, the brief highlights that U.S. foreign aid helps build vital infrastructures that countries need to thrive, as well helps the U.S. address societal challenges that may turn into security crises for the U.S.  With 11 of America’s top 15 trading partners former recipients of U.S. foreign aid, the investments also serve America’s economic interests, while also spreading America’s influence throughout the world and enhancing America’s reputation and standing.

Saving Lives, Saving Money: The case for strengthening U.S. investments in global health programs: In another issue brief, amfAR makes a compelling case for maintaining robust U.S. leadership in efforts to improve the health and well-being of people living in developing countries.  Claiming that U.S. leadership has ushered in a “golden era” in the history of global health, the brief highlights ways in which U.S. leadership on global health has changed the world: “From 1990 to 2010, the number of deaths worldwide due to diarrheal disease fell by 42 percent, mortality due to lower respiratory disease declined by 18 percent, and the number of children who died due to neonatal disorders fell by 27 percent. The annual number of AIDS-related deaths fell by 24 percent from 2005 to 2011, and the number of children newly infected with HIV in 2011 was 43 percent lower than in 2003.”

U.S. investments in foreign aid provide a healthy return – USAID’s Impact Blog published this piece on how U.S. investments in global health not only provide much needed services in developing countries, but also help governments make national health systems stronger by providing guidance and technical support.  The piece highlights a recent move by the Ugandan government to invest $19.8 million in filling critical health workforce positions throughout the country – a true show of in-country leadership and ownership according to authors Ariel Pablos-Mendez, USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health, and Pape Gaye, President and CEO of IntraHealth International.  With the support of USAID, IntraHealth’s Uganda Capacity Program works with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to keep tabs on the number of health care workers, and as a result can highlight to lawmakers the severe lack of health care workers in the country, where  one doctor and 13 nurses serve every 100,000 people.  Pablos-Mendez and Gaye write, “It takes only a fraction of a single penny per American taxpayer dollar to train a global health workforce – a workforce that will reach millions through treatment, prevention, and counseling services.”

Listening to women’s voices on HIV prevention – Mitchell Warren, Executive Director of AVAC, penned this piece in the Huffington Post on the importance of listening to and learning from women about their sexual health needs, their perceptions of their personal risk for HIV infection, and their willingness and ability to use HIV prevention products, in order to develop effective biomedical prevention tools to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  He cites recent results from the VOICE trials in South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, which showed that women – especially young women – find it difficult to adhere to daily pre-exposure prophylaxis regimens to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.  He suggests that “we need to redouble research into additional options that women can control, want and use,” including vaginal rings and injections that only need to be administered every month or quarter.  He also emphasizes the need to develop an HIV vaccine, which would overcome many of the issues around adherence.

An Activist’s Guide to Bedaquiline – Treatment Action Group (TAG) offers information and advocacy recommendations in this guide to bedaquiline, the first tuberculosis drug to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 40 years.  In December, the FDA approved bedaquiline to treat multidrug-resistant TB after two studies showed that the drug not only worked to treat MDR-TB, but also may be able to shorten treatment duration as well as prevent the emergence of further drug resistance in MDR-TB patients.  The guide also provides information on the safety of the drug, FDA approval and global access, and advocacy messages surrounding the use of the new drug.

Sexual minorities, human rights and public health strategies in Africa: In this March 2012 article published in African Affairs, global health development studies professor Marc Epprecht examines how global health initiatives help to promote sexual rights and challenge homophobia in countries where sexual discrimination is pervasive.  Epprecht explores how sexual health campaigns aimed at the heterosexual majority also embed a rights and self-esteem agenda for sexual minorities, aiding in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  He writes, “a significant amount of gay rights activism has also simply melded into mainstream HIV/AIDS lobby groups,” citing the Treatment Action Campaign as a striking success.

Funding Scientific Innovation: Global investments in HIV treatment research and development in 2010 and 2011 – With financial support from UNAIDS, AVAC and TAG joined together to analyze investment trends in HIV/AIDS research and development (R&D) in this report.  They found that $2.6 billion was invested in HIV/AIDS treatment R&D, a 12 percent increase in funding from the baseline year of 2009.  They also found that the majority of funding was targeted at research for new medications.  The report highlights, “advances in HIV treatment science in 2010 and 2011 saw improvement in treatment regimens and strategies and reinvigorated optimism for finding a cure.”

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