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AfricaFocus Bulletins with Material on Health - 2005-2006

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Jan 9, 2005  Africa: Year of Action for AIDS Treatment?
    "The Indian Ocean tsunami killed 150,000, and triggered a remarkable global relief effort that has raised $4 billion for the stricken region. But AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria alone kill 40 times that number every year, taking no fewer than 6 million lives. And still, the United Nations must scramble for the $3 billion a year it needs to combat these diseases." - Toronto Star, January 8, 2005

Jan 28, 2005  Africa: AIDS Progress Real but Limited
    The number of Africans receiving anti-retroviral treatment more than doubled from 150,000 to 310,000 in the last six months of 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported this week. For those on treatment, treatment adherence and survival rates were comparable to or even better than the rates in developed countries. But there are still more than ten times that many Africans who need AIDS treatment now but are not receiving it: 3.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone, out of 5.1 million worldwide.

Feb 22, 2005  South Africa: Mortality Statistics, AIDS Action
    Between 1997 and 2002, according to a new report from Stats SA, South Africa's official statistics agency, the number of recorded annual deaths in the age group from 20 to 45 more than doubled, from a little over 100,000 to more than 200,000. Although most deaths likely to be linked to AIDS are officially recorded as due to associated diseases such as TB and pneumonia, the age and disease pattern provides strong evidence of the growing impact of AIDS.

Mar 7, 2005  India/Africa: Threat to Generic Drugs
    Proposed changes in Indian patent law being considered by Parliament this month threaten to limit production of generic alternatives for newer drugs. Generic drugs from India have played a key role in lowering the price of antiretroviral treatment to make it feasible to scale up treatment more rapidly for 3.7 million Africans with AIDS who do not have access to treatment. But the new law could add one more obstacle to turning that promise into reality.

Mar 29, 2005  Ghana: Medical Skills Drain
    Among the most daunting barriers to addressing Africa's urgent health needs is the migration of health professionals to richer countries. Skilled personnel representing investment by poor countries end up filling in the gaps for the UK, USA, and other countries. The problem is widely acknowledged. But a new paper from Medact, based on the experience of Ghana and the UK, argues that current policy responses are not only inadequate but also based on many false assumptions.

Apr 15, 2005  Africa: AIDS Resources Gaps
    Despite increases in recent years, funding to fight the global AIDS pandemic is still only approximately half the minimum of more than $12 billion a year estimated to be needed. But the gaps are not only financial. Activists are increasingly emphasizing the even larger gaps in adequate human resources and upgraded health systems, that are essential for turning small-scale successes into sustainable larger programs.

May 4, 2005  Africa: Rolling Back Malaria?
    The World Malaria Report 2005, a new comprehensive report released yesterday by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, clearly lays out the strategies needed to fight malaria, which kills at least one million people a year. But despite claiming progress in more widespread adoption of these strategies, the report also acknowledges that these measures are only beginning to have an effect. More skeptical observers, such as the medical journal The Lancet in an April 25 editorial, say that lack of resources and lack of capacity for implementation have in fact crippled the war against malaria.

Jun 11, 2005  South Africa: AIDS Treatment Update
    Despite good outcomes in many treatment centers, the message from reports and demonstrators at the Second South African AIDS Conference in Durban last week was that the government's 18-month-old plan for AIDS treatment in the public sector is still falling far short. Results are very uneven among provinces, few children are receiving treatment, nutrition programs as well as antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are failing to reach the majority of those needing treatment, and there is still no plan to address the critical shortage of medical personnel.

Jun 24, 2005  Africa: Health Resources Shortfall
    "When the G8 industrialized nations gather in Scotland next month, they should commit to subsidizing the salaries of African health workers to keep them from leaving their home countries in search of higher pay and better conditions in wealthier countries. ... All the well-intentioned efforts [to address AIDS and other health needs] are limited by the lack of personnel on the ground for both prevention and treatment programs." - Boston Globe, June 24, 2004

Sep 9, 2005  Africa: Global Fund Progress Report
    "While the latest progress report points to a steady improvement in results and a persistent trend of a high-performing grant portfolio, it stresses that the Global Fund needs to sharply increase the rate of program acceleration in the next four years if it is to achieve its five-year targets." - Press Release from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, August 23, 2005.

Sep 15, 2005  Africa: Human Development Report
    Among the many reports issued as world leaders gather in New York to discuss their commitment to fighting world poverty, the annual Human Development Report is among the most blunt in concluding that the "promise to the world's poor is being broken." In addition to documenting the failures and presenting its annual measurement of the Human Development Index (HDI) for 177 countries, this year's report identifies specific actions that could begin to reverse the trend.

Nov 9, 2005  Africa: Stalled Growth at Global Fund
    "I have spent the last four years watching people die." With these wrenching words, diplomat and humanitarian Stephen Lewis opens his 2005 Massey Lectures. Lewis, who is the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General for HIV/AIDS in Africa, has been outspoken in his criticism of African governments and international and bilateral donors alike for their slow response to AIDS and their neglect of women in particular.

Nov 20, 2005  Africa: Africanizing Malaria Research
    Research on malaria must increasingly be centered in Africa and be led by African researchers, stressed participants in the Fourth Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan-African Malaria Conference held last week in Cameroon. In addition to a wide variety of scientific papers on the latest research, the conference featured the designation of researcher Genevieve Giny Fouda Amou'ou as recipient of the Young Malaria Scientist Award, and the announcement of the move of the MIM secretariat from Stockholm, Sweden to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Nov 28, 2005  USA/Africa: Global Gag Rule Expands
    The "Mexico City Policy," also known as the "Global Gag Rule" denies U.S. funding to foreign non-governmental organizations that work on safe abortion issues. It was reimposed by President George W. Bush in 2001, but in 2003 the administration said that the rule would not apply to funds for fighting HIV/AIDS. Now, according to the Center for Health and Gender Equity, the administration is reversing that policy in a new $193 million program in Kenya.

Dec 6, 2005  Africa: Health, Patents Clash
    In 2001, the World Trade Organization (WTO) approved the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health which affirms the right of countries to prioritize access to medicines and public health over intellectual property rights. However, this statement did not address the issue of how countries with insufficient manufacturing capacity can make use of these rights. Now developed countries want the WTO to extend a complex interim "solution" to the problem that has not worked.

Feb 16, 2006  South Africa: New AIDS Statistics
    A new study released this month estimates that 4.8 million people, or approximately 10.8 percent of South Africans over the age of 2, are now living with HIV/AIDS. The nation-wide survey, carried out by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), was close to the estimates produced by the latest Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) computer model, released in December. Both studies provide new detailed breakdowns of data, with the HSRC survey showing, for example, rates of AIDS prevalence as high as 17.6 percent in informal (slum) residential areas.

Feb 16, 2006  Africa: AIDS Optimism
    "[Four years ago] people like me were sick and tired, already, of defeatist arguments [about AIDS], which had gone on way too long already. To ask doctors, nurses, and other providers to give up on treating the sick because they're too poor to pay was never, ever acceptable to my co-workers in the field....We're still arguing, it's true, but we're not arguing about the same things. Instead of arguing whether or not to treat the poor who suffer from AIDS, or drug-resistant tuberculosis, or even drug- resistant malaria, we're arguing about what drugs should be used to treat these diseases." - Paul Farmer, November 2005

Mar 4, 2006  Africa: Universal Access Initiative
    AIDS activists and observers say the new "universal access by 2010" initiative is disturbingly vague and short on specific targets, with at least 4 million people still facing premature death from AIDS if they do not receive treatment. The "3 by 5" initiative, launched in 2003, targeted having 3 million people in developing countries on antiretroviral treatment for AIDS by the end of 2005. The last report, in June 2005, showed that the number had more than doubled, from 400,000 at the end of 2003 to approximately 1 million. But the year-end target was missed by at least 1 million, and there is still no detailed report for December 2005.

Apr 2, 2006  Africa: User Fees
    "The government of Zambia today (1 April) introduced free health care for people living in rural areas, scrapping fees which for years had made health care inaccessible for millions. The move was made possible using money from the debt cancellation and aid increases agreed at the G8 in Gleneagles last July, when Zambia received $4 billion of debt relief; money it is now investing in health and education." - Oxfam International

Apr 28, 2006  Africa: Keeping Health Commitments
    The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has announced a sixth round of grant proposals for this year, despite fears that the global effort could falter for lack of sufficient funds. But the momentum of global health efforts is still in doubt, with crucial evaluation meetings coming up in Abuja, Nigeria and in New York this month.

Jun 3, 2006  Africa: Backsliding on AIDS Commitments
    "U.N. Strengthens Call for a Global Battle against AIDS," reads the headline in the New York Times. But AIDS activist groups that demonstrated and lobbied for specific commitments and strong language at the UN meeting on AIDS disagreed. Instead, they accused governments of backsliding and failing to adopt specific targets against which they could be held accountable.

Jun 3, 2006  Africa: AIDS Epidemic Update
    "Sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst-affected region in the world. ... Overall, HIV prevalence in this region appears to be levelling off, albeit at exceptionally high levels in southern Africa. Such apparent 'stabilization' of the epidemic reflects situations where the numbers of people being newly infected with HIV roughly match the numbers of people dying of AIDS-related illnesses." - 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic

Jul 1, 2006  Africa: AIDS Treatment Progress Reports
    Newly-compiled performance results show that as of end April, 544,000 people have begun antiretroviral (ARV) treatment through Global Fund-supported programs - up from 384,000 six months ago. And despite the pressures for competition between the U.S. bilateral PEFPAR program and the Global Fund, reports from implementing agencies say the stress on operational level is on how to use resources from both programs to maximize action against AIDS. But sustainability of funding is a looming obstacle, with the projected overall funding gap for this year at some $5 billion.

Aug 18, 2006  Africa: Too Little for Too Few
    Ten times more people in Africa are getting life-saving HIV drugs than three years ago, reported Reuters this week from the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, but most still get no treatment and the pandemic continues to spread worldwide. Fewer than ten percent of HIV-infected pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries get treatment to protect their newborn from infection.

Sep 23, 2006  Africa: Girl Power
    "Girls who complete secondary school are up to five time less likely to contract HIV than girls with no education," according to a new ActionAid review of over 600 research studies. But in Africa, an estimated 22 million girls have never been to primary school.

Sep 30, 2006  Africa: Innovative Financing
    Beginning in July, international air travelers from France have been paying a 4 euro tax on an economy ticket and 40 euros on a first-class ticket, with proceeds going to pay for treatment of children with AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Eighteen other countries have pledged to implement the tax, including Brazil, the United Kingdom, Norway, Mali, and South Korea.

Sep 30, 2006  Africa: Making Aid Multilateral
    The current international aid system, says a new UN report, is chaotic, and suffers from high transaction costs, politicization, lack of transparency, incoherence, and unpredictability. What is needed, says the report, is a shift to a multilateral model similar to the Marshall Plan and to the European Community's regional funds.

Nov 15, 2006  Africa: Global Fund as Legacy of Innovation
    After more than 20 hours of deliberations early this month, the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was unable to agree on a new executive director. Despite the resulting delay, some observers say the failure actually indicates how seriously the Fund is taking its mandate to build a consensus between developed and developing countries.

Nov 24, 2006  Africa: Global Apartheid Update
    Speaking at the global launch of the 2006 Human Development Report in Cape Town, South African President Thabo Mbeki called for the world to fight "domestic and global apartheid in terms of access to water." The report documented high levels of inequality both within and between nations, with sub-Saharan African countries losing some five percent of GDP annually as a result of the water and sanitation crisis, far more than the region receives in international aid.

Nov 24, 2006  Africa: Water, Health, and Development
    "We estimate that the African region loses five per cent of GDP annually as a result of both women having to walk huge distances to collect water - which diverts labor, apart from the huge personal cost that it puts someone in - and the impact of disease on productivity." - Kevin Watkins, lead author, UN Human Development Report 2006