What we’re reading: Leahy on HIV funding, Global Gag Rule costs, and equalizing access to preferred medicines

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While awaiting appropriations decisions that will establish the public health priorities and capacities for responding to infectious diseases at home and in countries around the world over the coming year, questions include how available moneys can be put to the most effective use. This week we’re reading about both policies and strategies that  make a difference for better or worse.

Senator Patrick Leahy on Funding for International HIV/AIDS Programs – This statement sums it all up — the derailment of long-standing and successful efforts to control HIV proposed in the White House budget plan and subsequent documents, the bipartisan rejection of that proposal, and a reiteration that after years of stagnant funding, more, not less, is needed but is not included in the Senate bill. This means that the effective use of every dollar will be more critical to progress against the pandemic than ever before.

Trump changes to foreign aid restricting access to family planning in poorest countries – Also rejected in the Senate funding bill was the Trump administration’s renewed and expanded “Global Gag Rule” barring funding from organizations currently carrying out life-saving health services in some of the poorest countries in the world. This article enumerates some of the costs of rule, also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” in programs facing shut down, and reduced health care access, but notes the amendment overturning the policy is likely to face opposition in the House of Representatives.

Health Organizations partner for ‘milestone’ pricing agreement on superior HIV drug – Imagine if the medicine that represents the preferred option in high-income countries was also the available option in lower-income countries . . .  people at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and at the Clinton Health Access Initiative did, and worked with generic manufacturers to make it happen. According to this Devex article, the chasm between the standards of care in rich countries and poor is narrowing — while the first antiretroviral medicines did not become affordably available in low-income countries for 12 years after they were affordable in wealthier countries, only six years stood between the time access to next generation of life-saving  treatments became available in high-income countries and lower-income, and the access to the third generation of treatments came only three years later for patients in low-income countries. “It should be zero, frankly,” the representative of one of Mylan, one of the generic manufacturers, tells Devex.

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