29 October 2014
Shawn Clackett

Welcoming Australian support for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

(Left to Right) Ms Helen Evans, Ms Wendy McCarthy and Professor Kerryn Phelps

The Pacific Friends for Global Health has welcomed the Australian Government’s $50 million contribution to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which will help drive down the burden of vaccine-preventable disease in the world’s poorest countries.

Today’s announcement brings Australia’s support over the 2011-2015 period to $250 million (with a $32 million contribution to the Gavi bond scheme, known as IFFIm.)

The Chair of the Pacific Friends, Wendy McCarthy AO, said the commitment would improve health outcomes in countries where it was needed most.

“Since the turn of the century, Gavi’s contribution to global public health has been a genuine game changer. Australia’s continued strong support will help this life saving work continue.

“Particularly in our region, Gavi has had an outsized impact. This is a smart decision that will pay important social dividends.”

Since 2000, Gavi has immunised almost half a billion children, approximately half of them in our region.

This has helped avert approximately six million deaths.

Between 2016 and 2020, Gavi is aiming to secure an additional $US7.5 billion to immunise a further 300 million children, saving between five and six million lives.

“Every indicator shows that vaccines are one of the best value buys for the public health dollar,” Pacific Friends executive director, Bill Bowtell said.

“Australians can be confident and proud that their Government’s support for Gavi is money extremely well spent.”

27 October 2014
Shawn Clackett

Transmission: The journey from AIDS to HIV

 

Sydney film premiere:
A compelling story of sexuality, activism and hope by renowned Swedish filmmaker.

On the eve of World AIDS Day (1 December 2014) the Pacific Friends of The Global Fund are proud to present the Sydney premiere of the compelling documentary film Transmission: The journey from AIDS to HIV.

Thirty years in the making, Transmission: The journey from AIDS to HIV tells the powerful and very human stories of those living with HIV and the activism behind society’s changing attitudes about the disease.

Blending archival footage with interviews from the present, world renowned Swedish documentary filmmaker Staffan Hildebrand lays bare the taboo issues of sex and sexuality against the backdrop of fear and misunderstanding in the 80s and 90s. He expertly contrasts this with the messages of hope and positivity delivered by the young, tech-savvy, AIDS activists of today.

Hildebrand first visited Australia in 1988 as part of a global effort to document the struggles and activism of those suffering HIV/AIDS. His unique record, known as the Face of AIDS archive, is held at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and spans over 900 hours of archival footage.

In Transmission: The journey from AIDS to HIV Hildebrand revisits the Australian doctors and health workers who were on the frontline of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and featured in his archive. As a counterpoint he also retraces his steps through AIDS ravaged Cambodia, providing a fascinating insight into the inequities in treatment between our two countries.

In the end though, Hildebrand leaves us with a message of hope. He captures the unshakable spirit of the activists who have driven social change and the pride with which HIV positive people live with their diagnosis.

Transmission: The journey from AIDS to HIV was funded through the generous support of The Myer Foundation, The Lord Mayors Charitable Foundation (Melbourne), The Finkel Foundation, ACON, The Victorian AIDS Council and The Burnet Institute.

Staffan Hildebrand
Staffan Hildebrand was awarded a prestigious Fullbright Scholarship in 1968. Inspired by changing media he bought his first video camera and by 1971 he was covering the Vietnam war for Swedish National Television News from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

In 1983 he came to international prominence directing his first full length feature G, a box-office hit about youth culture, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Hildebrand also directed Nights of Stockholm (1987) and Someone to love (1990), both of which achieved box office success.

In 1988 Hildebrand’s first documentary on HIV/AIDS was selected as the opening film for the IV International AIDS Conference in Stockholm.

Interviews
Director Staffan Hildebrand is available for interview from Sweden. Participants in the documentary including Sebastian Robinson, Nic Dorward and Abby Landy are available for interview locally.

Tickets
Available online at www.queerscreen.org.au

Public relations
Jason Kerr
Kerr Communications
Mobile: 0434 850 782
Email:

21 October 2014
Shawn Clackett

No Better Investment

Blog by Dagfinn Høybråten, the Chair of the GAVI board

With its natural beauty and breath-taking scenery Lao is without a doubt one of the brightest jewels of Southeast Asia. However it is also one of the poorest nations in Asia with a weak health system and stark geographical disparities in health outcomes. Last week I was privileged to visit the country with a group of Australian parliamentarians. It was a chance to witness first hand the critical work Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is doing to fight preventable disease in this captivating, land-locked Southeast Asian country, and also to meet with national political leaders.

One of the institutions we visited was the Sethathiraj Hospital and Cancer Centre in the capital Vientiane. Here we learned of the scourge cervical cancer represents to local women. Medical specialists told us that the hospital treats many women with this type of cancer, but that they struggle to deal with the number of patients presenting with large, late-stage tumours.

Part of the problem is that people in remote rural areas have little or no access to diagnosis in the early stages and so need to travel a long way to the capital for medical help. To make matters worse, for most of these villagers the necessary medical treatment is prohibitively expensive.

This is part of a sad story we witness in most developing countries, where cervical cancer kills more than a quarter of a million women every year, or roughly one every two minutes. More than 85% of those who die from the disease live in the poorest parts of the world where access to screening and treatment is limited, and often non-existent. Most simply do not receive the treatment they need.

Although the trip to Lao was a stark reminder of these realities, we also witnessed how this situation is changing. Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), to use its official name, now aims to protect Lao women against most cases of cervical cancer by implementing the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, with the help of Gavi.

My travel companions the Australian Members of Parliament (MP) witnessed the results of this when visiting Ban Akad Primary School. As we arrived, the schoolyard was filled with young girls in school uniforms waiting in line to get their HPV vaccination as part of a demonstration HPV vaccination program currently being carried out. Prevention is better than treatment and this is never more true than the form of a simple vaccination, especially when diagnosis and treatment is, in too many cases, simply not available.

Given that the HPV vaccine was first developed at the University of Queensland, for the Australian MPs it must have been inspiring to see first hand how an Australian innovation, together with Australian investment of aid money in the Gavi partnership, was protecting lives in Laos.

Laos has a growing economy and is determined to increase its spending on health and on vaccines. But the Gavi assistance with low cost vaccines and funding to help strengthen Lao’s health systems is crucial now, to get the vaccines rolled out to those in need.

The case of HPV is an example of how the Vaccine Alliance model can help shape a market to ensure a high quality vaccine reaches the people who need it, and at an affordable price. It is also a compelling case of equity. Vaccines have generally been available in the world’s richest nations, despite a greater disease burden in developing countries. However, HPV vaccine is now being rolled out in countries where people previously had no access to this powerful public health tool. By 2020, we estimate more than 30 million girls in 40 countries will be immunised against cervical cancer.

Globally, one-in-five children born each year still do not have access to the most basic vaccines, and 1.5 million children die each year of vaccine preventable diseases.

But visiting Laos gave inspiring examples of the change that is taking place.

Gavi has supported the immunisation of almost half a billion children already, saving six million lives. In January next year, the Vaccine Alliance will ask for funding from government and other donors to help vaccinate a further 300 million people by 2020, to save a further 5-6 million lives. There can be no better investment than that.

23 September 2014
Guest Contributor

Major Push for Domestic Financing for Health

Global Fund News Release: 23 September 2014

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta calls for low and middle income countries to increase their spending on health

NEW YORK – A passionate call for low and middle income countries to increase their spending on health was launched by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday evening.

Hosting an event called “Domestic Financing for Health: Invest to Save,” President Kenyatta laid the groundwork for a strong partnership for increased investments in health, bringing together leaders from several African countries, the African Union, United Nations Foundation and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Rwanda Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho joined President Kenyatta and other African leaders at the event, signalling a unity of purpose in a bid to sustain momentum against the world’s most challenging diseases.

Countries implementing health programs financed by international funders are playing a bigger role in financing health. This has led to a tremendous impact on global health. Last year during the Global Fund replenishment conference, which galvanises resources for the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, several African countries made significant commitments to increasing their investments in response to the diseases and in strengthening health systems in their countries.

In the coming years, these countries are expected to take a leading role not only in urging the world to spend more in fighting diseases but also in investing more of their own money toward saving lives of their people. Yesterday’s meeting, led by Kenya, signals an accelerated effort toward that end.

President Kenyattaurged African countries to explore ways to galvanize local resources for health, to build health systems and sustainable interventions against diseases. “We have depended on external help for health services, but we have to mobilise domestic resources to find our own solution instead of moving from one crisis to another,” President Kenyatta said.

The President’s keynote remarks led to a panel discussion that made a strong case for spending more local resources on health as a way to saving lives as well as strengthening economies.

A report published last year by the AU and UNAIDS said that from 2001 to 2011, health budgets in AU Member States increased from 9 percent to 11 percent of public expenditures. Six AU Member States – Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Togo and Zambia – have achieved a target set in Abuja in 2001 to allocate 15 percent of public expenditure to health.

President Kenyatta said Kenya is making plans to hit this target. Saying that the fruits of Africa’s economic growth would only be beneficial if proper investments were channeled toward health, the president urged African countries to invest in their own solutions to keeping their people healthy.

In a spirit of shared responsibility and global solidarity, the meeting focused on the need to pool local and global resources to garner substantial wherewithal to enable the world to achieve victory over the world’s deadliest infectious diseases – HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The meeting also explored what leaders from low and middle income countries can do to accelerate wide-ranging and innovative investments in health.

Lawrence H. Summers, Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University, who now  chairs the Lancet Commission on Investing in Health, GlobalHealth2035.org, also spoke at the event. He argued that today we have the technology and financial means to close the health gap between poorer and richer nations, to achieve what he is calling “a grand convergence in health.”

“The grand convergence would dramatically reduce infectious, maternal and child deaths within one generation, averting 10 million deaths in 2035,” Dr. Summers said. “Governments in low and middle income countries must invest in health. Just 1 percent of their economic growth over the next two decades would fund the grand convergence. The global community must support poorer countries and spearhead the search for new technologies.”

Other panellists included Dr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, and Tumusiime Peace, the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union.

23 September 2014
Guest Contributor

Ecobank Expands Partnership with Global Fund

Global Fund News Release: 23 September 2014

.               The Global Fund                 

JUBA, South Sudan – Ecobank Group and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are expanding a partnership  to include South Sudan after collaborating since 2011 on capacity-building programs for Global Fund implementers in Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria.

Building on this successful experience, the two parties announced in Juba  they have concluded a three to five years’ agreement to formalize Ecobank’s support for the Global Fund’s work and programs in a number of countries in Africa, including South Sudan.

The Global Fund program in South Sudan is being implemented through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Population Services International (PSI).

In South Sudan, the Global Fund/Ecobank partnership seeks to strengthen the financial management capabilities of Global Fund’s Sub-Recipients and Sub-Sub-Recipients (SSR) through the provision of technical assistance and capacity building expertise and services. Assessments were carried out for three national program Sub-Recipients under existing grants:  Ministry of Health/HIV;  the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control Program (NTP); and the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP). Subsequent work plans have been developed.

Through a partnership with Accounting for International Development (AfID), of the United Kingdom, Ecobank South Sudan has used the information and analysis provided by the Sub-Recipients and the Global Fund to design and implement a project plan to provide financial management capacity building for the national entities above through Ecobank’s own training and through placement of AfID volunteer accountants. The capacity building programme is expected to take about 12 weeks.

In his remarks at the launch of the program in Juba, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ecobank South Sudan, Mr. Simon Akuei, said its benefits will among other things include: improved financial management of public resources; wider coverage of donor funding which will lead to improved public welfare; and leveraging private and public partnerships with donor support to enhance delivery of public services.

He said the partnership is one way through which Ecobank gives back to the public through its Corporate Social Responsibility program.

Marion Gleixner, a Senior Fund Portfolio Manager at the Global Fund, said the partnership between Ecobank and the Global Fund was strategic and innovative and would result in increased program effectiveness and more saved lives. “This partnership springs from fruitful collaboration between the Global Fund,  Ecobank, the UNDP and implementing entities, who have worked closely on developing projects that will enhance financial management capabilities of the three national programme Sub Recipients in South Sudan.”

Ecobank South Sudan is part of the Ecobank Group, now present in 36 countries across Africa; with 4 International representative offices. Ecobank South Sudan is situated at Koita complex on Ministries Road and offers a range of financial services that span across Personal Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking and Treasury Solutions.

Additional information may be found at: www.ecobank.com

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Pacific Friends operates under the auspices of the University of New South Wales Foundation.

Pacific Friends

Wendy McCarthy AO
Chair
Bill Bowtell AO
Executive Director

Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.

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