International News – Pakistan
By Shahina Maqbool
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has cautioned Pakistan that if it does not sign, by mid-February 2016, the framework agreement for allocation of a US$255 million grant in support of the country’s national programmes for AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the GFATM will not be able to allocate funds to the country due to its own obligations, ‘The News’ learnt on good authority here Wednesday.
The Global Fund felt constrained to convey its stance to the Ministry of Health in the wake of unwarranted delay on part of Pakistan to sign the framework agreement, which is a generic document signed by all recipient countries. The delay was caused by misinterpretation of and technical objections to some clauses of the agreement by some line ministries that were part of the consultations. And even though the Global Fund made amendments to the agreement in the light of these observations, Pakistan still delayed furnishing an official response on the agreement to the Global Fund.
By Shamika Ravi and Rahul Ahluwalia
India’s health care sector is poised at a crossroads, and the direction taken now will be critical in determining its trajectory for years to come. In a recent Brookings India paper on the Indian government’s health care policy, we argue that it should prioritize expanding and effectively delivering those aspects of health that fall under the definition of “public goods’” for example, vaccination, health education, sanitation, public health, primary care and screening, family planning through empowering women, and reproductive and child health. These are all aspects of health with significant externalities and thus cannot be efficiently provided by markets.
Large gains in the nation’s health, and particularly the health of the poorest and most marginalized, can be made with this limited focus. As just one estimate, a 2010 World Bank study showed that India lost 53.8 billion USD annually in premature mortality, lost productivity, health care provision and other losses due to inadequate sanitation. Importantly, these gains can come very cost effectively, as demonstrated by India’s neighbors Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which spend less as a percentage of GDP on health than India, but have better outcomes. It is not an expansion in spending that is critical for improving health outcomes. Instead, India needs to set appropriate goals and reform the public health care sector’s governance and management systems so that it is able to deliver on those goals. Evidence gathered globally and within India suggests that without good governance, additional spending would be worth little.
The Guardian — UK
25 January 2016
The British chancellor, George Osborne, and the Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, have unveiled a plan to spend billions to defeat “the world’s deadliest killer” malaria. Osborne and Gates announced £3bn (US$4.28bn) in funding over the next five years for research and to support efforts to eliminate the mosquito-borne disease. “When it comes to human tragedy, no creature comes close to the devastation caused by the mosquito,” the two wrote in a joint article in the Times. “We both believe that a malaria-free world has to be one of the highest global health priorities.” The fund would be made up of £500m a year from Britain’s overseas aid budget for the next five years, as well as $200m this year from the Gates Foundation, with more donations to follow.
By Kathryn Doyle
28 January 2016
Healthcare providers need to understand that for HIV-positive African women, following advice not to breastfeed in order to protect their babies from the virus takes a high emotional toll, a U.K. study suggests. “Firstly, we need to understand that avoiding breastfeeding may carry significant emotional, social and financial cost to women,” lead author Dr. Shema Tariq of University College London told Reuters Health. “It is important to build a safe and non-judgmental space where expectant mothers can openly discuss their concerns.”
The risks and benefits of breastfeeding while HIV-positive depend on the setting, Tariq and her colleagues write in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. In high-income settings like the U.K., there is little risk of malnutrition or diarrheal illness for babies raised without the protective factors in breast milk, so women are advised not to breastfeed, which carries some risk of transmitting the virus. But in low-income settings, like some areas of Africa, infant death due to malnutrition or diarrhea is much more common, so HIV-positive women are advised to exclusively breastfeed for six months and to be on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
By Dominic Howell
28 January 2016
Strains of HIV are becoming resistant to an antiretroviral drug commonly used to prevent and fight the virus, research has suggested. HIV was resistant to the drug Tenofovir in 60% of cases in several African countries, according to the study, covering the period from 1998 to 2015. The research, led by University College London, looked at around 2,000 HIV patients worldwide. Lead author Dr Ravi Gupta said the results were “extremely concerning”.