All Kinds of Belated News (Week of September 18-24)

SECTION NEWS

The Fall 2011 Newsletter has been posted!  Be sure to check out recent announcements, section updates, links to recent blog entries, and lots of fellowship opportunities!

The Advocacy/Policy Committee would like to invite you to participate in our first Advocacy Day, led in partnership with the Global Health Council. The day, scheduled for Thursday, November 3rd, 2011, immediately following the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., will be an opportunity for us to voice support for a continued focus on international health to our elected officials. With the intense Congressional pressure to cut the budget, our voices can make a real difference. As a participant during this exciting day, you will be provided with training materials on effective advocacy techniques to ensure your message is clearly heard. Even if you do not have advocacy experience, you need not hesitate to sign up because you will be teamed with others. Please consider joining your fellow International Health Section members on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 on Capitol Hill to advocate for a healthy globe. Interested parties should register here. Please note that registration will close on October 14th. Any questions should be directed to Peter Freeman, Advocacy/Policy Committee Chair, at pffreeman@gmail.com or 773.318.4842.


The G+ Vaccines Challenge has been launched!  G+, a new online community launched by Gerson Lehrman Group, has partnered with IndieGoGo and StartUp Health to solicit early stage ideas for tackling problems and inefficiencies in vaccine delivery  in-the-field, distribution and development. Finalists will have the unique opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of investment, NGO and corporate and life sciences professionals with the influence to advance those ideas towards realization.  You can find more information about the challenge here.

APHA NEWS

Dr. Benjamin is currently on a teaching sabbatical at Hunter College in NYC. Alan Baker (former Chief of Staff at APHA) returned to serve as Acting Executive
Director in the interim.

UN HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON NCDs

  • The UN held its first-ever meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  Global health journalist Tom Paulson provided some great coverage of the event on the Humanosphere blog.
  • World leaders unanimously adopted the NCD Summit Outcome Document at the General Assembly in New York.
  • On the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting in New York, the United States and WHO signed a memorandum of understanding to help developing countries boost capacity to meet the International Health Regulations.
  • The cost for the developing world to address NCDs, based on the WHO’s recommendation to increase budgets by 4%, will be $11.4 billion.

POLITICS AND POLICY

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates appears poised to endorse the adoption of a controversial financial transactions tax (FTT) to be used as a new source of development aid for poor countries.

PROGRAMS

  • The multibillion dollar Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria must do a better job managing its grants to partner countries, according to an independent review panel.  A seven member panel investigating the Global Fund has recommended that it place greater emphasis on results and improve risk management.  In the Center for Global Development blog, William Savedoff is concerned that the new report suggesting changes for the Global Fund will move it away from innovating.
  • USAID has announced that it will be giving a $200 million grant to the Public Health Institute to support its global health fellows program.
  • Private and public actors have lined up to support Every Woman Every Child and its goal of preventing 33 million unwanted pregnancies.

RESEARCH

Researchers at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago announced that they were able to reduce the level of HIV in infected people through cell-based therapy.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • The privacy curtains that separate care spaces in hospitals and clinics are frequently contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria, according to a U.S. study.
  • If today’s momentum and progress against malaria can be sustained, deaths from this infectious disease could be reduced to near-zero, and cases of infection cut by 75 per cent in the next decade, says a recent report by the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership.
  • Depression may go hand in hand with a number of other physical health problems, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Now the latest evidence suggests that depression may also increase the risk of stroke.
  • Polio has spread to China for the first time since 1999 after being imported from Pakistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed.

TOTALLY UNRELATED TO ANYTHING: Melinda Gates is now on Twitter!

Global Health News Last Week

SECTION NEWS
Attention IH section members! We are still in need of moderators for the scientific sessions at this year’s annual meeting. According to our program committee, the following sessions are still available:

Monday, October 31
10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: International Health Programs & Policy 1

2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.: Act Global, Think Local: Domestic applications of international health lessons; Child Survival & Child Health 1

Tuesday, November 1
8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.: Builidng Partnerships and Coalitions for better International Programs; Emerging, Re-emerging & Neglected Tropical Diseases

10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.: International Health Communication/ Behavior Change Communication

12:30 p.m. 2:00 p.m.: HIV/AIDS 2

Wednesday, November 2
8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.: HIV/AIDS 3; Innovations in International Health 2

Please contact Omar Khan (ih.apha@gmail.com) for more information, or to volunteer!


USAID celebrated its 50-year anniversary this week.

The benefits of breastfeeding are being showcased around the world
for Breast Feeding Week.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • US organizations will find it easier to deliver aid to parts of Somalia controlled by a pro-Al Qaeda group – the threat of prosecution if it ends up in the wrong hands has been reduced  after an announcement by the State Department.
  • Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez was sworn in as the new Assistant Administrator for the Global Health Bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • Although Congress resolved the debt ceiling debate, the way the budget package is being shaped — particularly by combining International Affairs with defense in a single “security” category, global poverty spending is getting severely handicapped.
  • Blood tests for tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis may be putting patients’ lives at risk through providing misleading results, and should not be used, according to a WHO policy statement.

PROGRAMS

  • The inaugural charter of the Alliance for Oral Health Across Borders was signed at Temple University yesterday.
  • Tom Paulson of Humanosphere breaks down the 2010 Gates Foundation annual report, with some interesting commentary.
  • Jaclyn Schiff of UN Dispatch says we can look for more global health leadership coming from the city of Houston (my hometown!), as Dr. Peter Hotez, whom Schiff calls “an international health force of nature,” and an arm of the Sabin Vaccine Institute move there.
  • The Measles Initiative today announced it has helped vaccinate one billion children in more than 60 developing countries since 2001, making significant gains in the global effort to stop measles.
  • India’s health minister announced Tuesday a new initiative underway to boost the country’s rate of immunizing newborns by collecting mobile phone numbers of all pregnant mothers to monitor their babies’ vaccinations.

RESEARCH

  • A multi-resistant strain of Salmonella Kentucky could be spreading globally, suggests a study by Institut Pasteur. Case numbers have risen in Europe and the US, and infections have also been acquired in various parts of Africa and the Middle East. The strain has also been found in food animals in Africa.
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturer iBio, Inc announced the successful animal testing of a malaria vaccine candidate in trials sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • A new study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene shows a relationship between a kind of river flow and cholera outbreaks.
  • A new study in the Lancet shows that text messaging can be an effective tool in malaria treatment and prevention.
  • PLoS Medicine published a new study on HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa. Among its key findings was the startling fact that sex between men (MSM) accounts for nearly one quarter of all new HIV infections across the region.
  • According to a new study, children of depressed mothers in developing countries are 40 percent more likely to be underweight or stunted than those with mothers in good mental health.
  • A cheap and portable blood test could provide a breakthrough for diagnosing infections in remote areas of the world, a scientific study says.
  • Using WHO data, researchers found that children who experience abuse and develop mental health disorders are at increased risk for chronic physical problems later in life.
  • A new study in the journal Nature Medicine finds that a credit card shaped device used for testing HIV, known as “Lab-on-a-Chip,” has had a successful trial run in Rwanda.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • Mass treatment of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis with ivermectin has been hampered by severe reactions if the patient also has Loa loa. A new map developed by WHO’s African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control will help communities identify low risk areas for Loa loa and distribute ivermectin for lymphatic filariasis control safely.
  • The CDC reports that the annual number of HIV infections in the USA is holding steady at about 50,000, and that African American MSM are at particular risk.
  • AIDS remains a metaphor for inequality, argues Michel Sidibe in the LA Times. In the world’s wealthier nations, where access to medicine is widespread, AIDS is becoming a chronic disease rather than a death sentence. But in the eveloping world, 1.8 million people die of AIDS each year.
  • Global cholera incidence has increased since 2000, with Haiti’s large outbreak tipping the largest burden away from Africa for the first time since 1995, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Sunday.
  • Tens of thousands of Somalis have died and more than half-a-million children are on the brink of starvation. Western aid isn’t flowing to where the worst of the famine is — partly due to the “war on terror.”
  • The head of World Food Program in Ethiopia says the country’s emergency food stocks are almost gone, the latest trouble caused by the drought in the Horn of Africa.

TOTALLY UNRELATED TO ANYTHING – Apparently Hollywood has discovered its next Greg Mortenson: Sam Childers, the “Machine Gun Preacher,” is the subject of much hubbub and an upcoming movie starring Gerard Butler.  This man claims to have been a gangbanger and drug dealer who found Jesus and then took up arms to rescue child soldiers from the LRA.  Global health blogger Brett Keller offers some commentary into Childers’ outlandish (and, frankly, dubious) story, while anonymous aid blogger “J” at Tales from the Hood has a few choice words.

Global Health News Last Week

The Supercourse team at the University of Pittsburgh has taken the initiative to spread the WHO’s definition of health, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  They have translated the definition into over 60 different languages using Google translate and have asked health professionals to review them to make sure they are correct.  This global health knowledge campaign is being developed by the Supercourse team, WHO Collaborating Centre, University of Pittsburgh.  Please contact Dr. Ronald LaPorte, Director, Professor of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, for more information.

July 28 was the first-ever World Hepatitis Day.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • As the UN gears up for its Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases this September, blogger Michael Hodin argues that by focusing on this issue, the world body has a “new shot at relevance” in an era where its importance is decreasing (and countries contemplate cutting its funding).
  • Former U.S. Ambassador on HIV/AIDS Jack Chow says the CIA’s fake vaccination scheme in Pakistan, aimed at locating Osama Bin Laden, threatens to undermine a broad set of American global health initiatives.
  • The U.S. government and the Gates Foundation were responsible for 85% of the steep increase in malaria funding between 2007 and 2009. Richard Tren argues that we need to diversify funding sources and focus on control efforts.

PROGRAMS

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has teamed up with FC Barcelona to promote the polio eradication campaign.
  • To raise awareness about violence against women in Europe, the UN has opened up a contest to design a newspaper advertisement in support of the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. View submissions and the winning entries here.
  • Seattle-based development blogger Tom Paulson continues to raise some interesting issues regarding the Gates Foundation’s funding of media coverage for global health issues.  Their latest venture is a weekly program on the BBC.

RESEARCH

  • Researchers have cracked the DNA code of the strain of E. coli that originated in German sprouts and killed over 50 people this summer.
  • A cell phone that doubles as a blood-oxygen tester is one of the 77 mHealth innovation finalists for the Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development competition.
  • A study conducted by the WHO found that France, the U.S., the Netherlands, and India have the highest rates of depression in the world, while China has the lowest.  Detailed interviews were conducted with over 89,000 individuals in 18 countries.
  • It is becoming more apparent that one of the most effective ways to deal with HIV/AIDS is to address neglected tropical diseases, argues the Public Library of Science in Eureka Alert.
  • A study of the lifespan of HIV patients receiving combination ARV therapy by researchers at University of Ottawa has found that patients can expect to live a near normal lifespan.
  • Researchers at Oklahoma University believe that a protein-based vaccine could prevent many cases of childhood pneumonia.
  • Dutch researchers have found that children who were not breastfed were more likely to develop respiratory problems such as asthma.
  • The first stage of trials for a new malaria vaccine by Swiss researchers in Tanzania have shown promising results.
  • Has announced in a study in Pediatrics that the varicella vaccine for chickenpox has reduced the annual death toll in the United States from 105 to 14. Tests are in progress that could lead to major family planning advances. The New York Times reports on some innovations in male contraceptives that could offer safe and effective contraception.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • The Agbogbloshie slum outside of Accra, Ghana, is a major electronics waste dump.  This site is an example of what happens to “donated” discarded electronics: residents burn them to extract precious metals and simultaneously exposed to a host of hazardous chemicals, as the goods release lead, mercury,
    thallium, hydrogen cyanide, and PVC.
  • A recent article by a global panel uses startling images to call attention to the woeful state of neglect and inadequate treatment of mental illness in developing nations.

Global Health News Last Week

May 12 was International Nurses Day.
USAID’s Frontlines magazine is running an exclusive interview with Dr.

Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, in which she discusses current global health priorities and systems strengthening.

Peoples-uni, an open-access education initiative, offers open-access resource and online learning materials for capacity-building in low- and middle-income countries.

POLICY

  • Excessive bleeding following childbirth is the leading cause of maternal deaths in the developing world, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has now approved the use of misoprostol, a drug that considerably reduces this risk.
  • Shanghai’s health authority and local hospitals are seeking to reduce the rate of births by cesarean section this year after a recent report showed that far more Shanghai women are undergoing the procedure than is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • For the fifth time, at next week’s WHO General Assembly, countries will debate whether or not to destroy the last two known stockpiles of smallpox.
  • The Director General of Nigeria’s drug and food regulator, Dr. Paul Orhii, was in London last week where he lodged a strong case before members states of the World Health Assembly to institute a legal platform to combat the spread of counterfeit drugs.

PROGRAMS

  • Humanosphere’s Tom Paulson writes that funding for childhood vaccinations is not keeping up with the need and is struggling to compete with more high-profile priorities.
  • The phenomenon of “poverty tourism” – in which charities and aid organizations take donors on trips to “experience poverty” and meet their beneficiary – is coming under increased scrutiny and generating controversy.
  • John Donnelly, writing in GlobalPost, characterizes the Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative as off to “a slow, stumbling start” in a short series called “Healing the World.”
  • Last Wednesday, the WHO launched a campaign to reduce the huge but largely unrecognized burden of traffic deaths and injuries over the next decade.

RESEARCH

  • An HIV-positive person who takes anti-retroviral drugs after diagnosis, rather than when their health declines, can cut the risk of spreading the virus to uninfected partners by 96%, according to a study.
  • New research has revealed that a bacteria present in the gut of mosquitos may be another tool to fight the spread of malaria.
  • An experimental drug helped monkeys with a form of the Aids virus control the infection for more than a year, suggesting it may lead to a vaccine for people, or even a cure.
  • A study by US scientists, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that 400,000 females aged 15-49 were raped over a 12-month period in the DRC 2006 and 2007. That comes out to an average of 48 women and girls being raped every hour.
  • A new report by MSF argues that switching from using quinine to artesunate to treat malaria could save up to 200,000 lives a year.
  • A US study has suggested that homosexual men are more likely to have had cancer than heterosexual men.
  • According to the findings of the last Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, getting pregnant soon after childbearing, miscarriage or abortion places mothers and newborns at a higher risk of health complications or even death.
  • Results announced today by the United States National Institutes of Health show that if an HIV-positive person adheres to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96%.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • According to statistics released by the National Coordinator of the Nigeria’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), Dr. Babajide Coker, Nigeria contributes a quarter of the malaria burden in Africa, and a staggering 90 per cent of its citizens are at risk for contracting the disease.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s recalled at least 11,700 bottles of HIV/AIDS drug Prezista in several countries, after discovering trace amounts of a chemical emitting offensive odors in five batches of products sold in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Canada.
  • In China, around 1.5 million people require organ transplants, but just 10,000 receive them each year, as few Chinese agree to donate their organs upon death. Illegal organ traffickers have stepped in to fill that gap.

TOTALLY UNRELATED TO ANYTHING ELSE: Princess Beatrice’s atrocious weird attention-grabbing hat, worn to the royal wedding, is now being auctioned on eBay for UNICEF and Children in Crisis. Um, yay?

Working toward an HIV vaccine: Have we already (prematurely) given up?

Tom Paulson raised a very valid point on his Humanosphere blog entry this morning: for as significant and exciting as the progress toward an HIV vaccine, which was discussed during the AIDS Vaccine 2010 conference this week in Atlanta, strikingly little media attention has been given to it.  Despite the fact that the entire meeting was held inside the CNN center, CNN has not covered the event at all, and even the local newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was not present at the press conference.  As Mr. Paulson so aptly put it, “unlike many AIDS meetings, there’s been lots of enthusiasm and excitement here because…there’s actually been some significant progress in the search for an AIDS vaccine.  But, really, who cares?”

An HIV vaccine would be an ideal solution to a disease that has defied all manner of interventions polarized public health and political responses.  33.2 million people around the world were HIV-positive in 2008; 2.7 million are infected every year, and two million die annually from HIV- and AIDS- related deaths.1  The statistics are familiar to virtually all global health professionals, but effective strategies to control the epidemic are hard to come by, and the debate over infection control has become hopelessly infected by ideological bickering.  In 2008, for example, Pope Benedict provoked the wrath of sexual and public health advocates when he stated that condoms make the HIV problem worse during his first visit to Africa.  In response, Rebecca Hodes, head of policy, communication and research for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, said that his “opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”2  Even when Edward Green from the Harvard School of Public Health pointed out that the empirical evidence supported the Pope, he said that “[w]e liberals who work in the fields of global HIV/AIDS and family planning take terrible professional risks if we side with the pope on a divisive topic such as this.”3 

So if an effective HIV vaccine could solve the problem and end all of the ideological squabbling, why has it been largely ignored?  Paulson points out that there is a significant paucity of funding which may be due to different priorities in the global health agenda or the economic downturn; public apathy also affects political support, which in turn influences funding (or lack thereof).  But perhaps it goes beyond that – after so many years of failure and disappointment, it looks like most people have largely given up on the prospect of an HIV vaccine.  When the US HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler announced in 1984 that the virus that caused AIDS had been isolated, she said, “We hope to have a vaccine ready for testing in about two years.”4  Researchers worked to develop that promised vaccine for decades and were met with persistent failure.  After all, the first clinical trial with even modestly promising results did not come until last year in Thailand, 25 years later – and Dr. Nelson Michael, who lead the study, said that they “weren’t prepared for success,” and they had not even made enough vaccine for follow-up studies.  If the researchers behind these vaccine candidates have so little faith in their work, what message does that send to the scientific and public health communities?

At the conference, leaders in the effort to develop an HIV vaccine discussed the need for a more aggressive approach to vaccine development and more funding for further research and trials.  While these are valid concerns, more effort should be put into restoring the faith of the public health community (and the public) in the possibility of having an effective vaccine.  In light of the public health victories that have been won through vaccines for diseases such as smallpox and polio, isn’t it worth getting excited about?