UNAIDS launches gender equality campaign

UNAIDS, together with celebrated artist and activist for women and HIV, Annie Lennox, has launched an “Agenda for Accelerated Country Action for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV (2010–2014)”, which has been developed to address gender inequalities and human rights violations that continue to put women and girls at risk of HIV infection.

The five-year action plan was launched at a high-level panel during the 54th meeting on the Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York in March. It calls on the UN system to support governments, civil society and development partners in reinforcing country actions to put women and girls at the centre of the AIDS response, ensuring that their rights are protected.

As of December 2008, 33.4 million people were living with HIV worldwide, of which 15.7 million almost half were women. The proportion of women infected with HIV has risen in many regions over of the world over the past 10 years. In sub- Saharan Africa, 60% of people living with HIV are women. Nearly 30 years into the HIV epidemic, HIV services do not sufficiently address the specific realities and needs of women and girls.

The Agenda for Action provides clear action points on how the UN can work together with governments, civil society and development partners to:

● produce better information on the specific needs of women and girls in the context of HIV;

● turn political commitments into increased resources and actions so HIV programmes can better respond to the needs of women and girls; and

● support leaders to build safer environments in which women’s and girl’s human rights are protected.

The actions include:

● Improving data collection and analysis to better understand how the epidemic affects women and girls.

● Reinforcing the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign through the AIDS response.

● Ensuring that violence against women is integrated into HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programmes.

● Analysing the impact of socio-cultural and economic factors that prevent women and girls from protecting themselves against HIV.

● Supporting women’s groups and networks of women living with HIV to map commitments made by governments on women and HIV.

● Scaling up engagement of men’s and boys’ organizations to support the rights of women and girls.

● More information here: http://data.unaids.org/pub/Agenda/ 2010/20100226_jc1794_agenda_for_ accelerated_country_action_en.pdf

Drug-resistant TB at record levels

In some areas of the world, one in four people with tuberculosis (TB) becomes ill with a form of the disease that can no longer be treated with standard drugs regimens, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report says.

For example, 28% of all people newly diagnosed with TB in one region of north western Russia had the multidrug-resistant form of the disease (MDR-TB) in 2008. This is the highest level ever reported to WHO. Previously, the highest recorded level was 22% in Baku City, Azerbaijan, in 2007.

In the new WHO’s Multidrug and Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: 2010 Global Report on Surveillance and Response, it is estimated that 440,000 people had MDRTB worldwide in 2008 and that a third of them died. In sheer numbers, Asia bears the brunt of the epidemic. Almost 50% of MDR-TB cases worldwide are estimated to occur in China and India. In Africa, estimates show 69,000 cases emerged, the vast majority of which went undiagnosed.

Tuberculosis programmes face tremendous challenges in reducing MDR-TB rates. But there are encouraging signs that even in the presence of severe epidemics, governments and partners can turn around MDRTB by strengthening efforts to control the disease and implementing WHO recommendations.

Two regions in the Russian Federation, Orel and Tomsk, have achieved a remarkable decline in MDR-TB in about five years. These regions join two countries, Estonia and Latvia, which have reversed rising high rates of MDR-TB, ultimately achieving a decline. The United States of America and China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), have achieved sustained successes in controlling MDR-TB.

Progress remains slow in most other countries. Worldwide, of those patients receiving treatment, 60% were reported as cured. However, only an estimated 7% of all MDR-TB patients are diagnosed. This points to the urgent need for improvements in laboratory facilities, access to rapid diagnosis and treatment with more effective drugs and regimens shorter than the current two years.

WHO is engaged in a five year project to strengthen TB laboratories with rapid tests in nearly 30 countries. This will ensure more people benefit early from life-saving treatments. It is also working closely with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the international community on increasing access to treatment.

Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is caused by bacteria that are resistant to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the most effective anti-TB drugs. MDR-TB results from either primary infection with resistant bacteria or may develop in the course of a patient’s treatment.

Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that are resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin (i.e. MDR-TB) as well as any fluoroquinolone and any of the second-line anti-TB injectable drugs (amikacin, kanamycin or capreomycin).

These forms of TB do not respond to the standard six-month treatment with firstline anti-TB drugs and can take up to two years or more to treat with drugs that are less potent, more toxic and much more expensive, from 50 to 200 times higher. While a course of standard TB drugs cost approximately US$20, MDR-TB drugs can cost up to $5,000, and XDR-TB treatment is far more expensive.

In 2008, there were an estimated 9.4 million new TB cases, and 1.8 million TB deaths. 440,000 MDR-TB cases are estimated to have emerged in the same year with 150,000 MDR-TB deaths. No official estimates have been made on the number of XDR-TB cases, but there may be around 25,000 a year with most cases fatal. Since XDR-TB was first defined in 2006, a total of 58 countries have reported at least one case of XDR-TB.

● Download WHO's Multidrug and Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: 2010 Global Report on Surveillance and Response: www.who.int/entity/tb/publications/2010/978 924599191/en/index.html

GAVI Alliance, drug companies in historic vaccines supply deal

Millions of infants and young children in the world’s poorest countries will receive potentially life-saving vaccines that help protect against pneumococcal disease, including pneumonia – the world’s biggest childhood killer, thanks to new agreements made with two major pharmaceutical firms, according to the GAVI Alliance.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer are the first two companies to make long-term commitments to supply new vaccines against pneumococcal disease. It was expected that supplies of the vaccines could start this year as a fraction of the price charged in industrialised countries.

The supply agreements were made possible thanks to the Advance Market Commitment (AMC) <www.vaccineamc.org> for pneumococcal disease, an innovative financing mechanism piloted by the GAVI Alliance. The governments of Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed US$1.5 billion to launch the programme.

Julian Lob-Levyt, GAVI CEO, said the landmark announcement “promises to make new vaccines available affordably, where they are urgently needed, and faster than ever before. Through this AMC and thanks to the political will demonstrated by donors and least developed nations and the participation of the pharmaceutical companies, prevention against the world’s biggest childhood killer is now within reach”.

Pneumococcal disease kills 1.6 million people each year – including approximately 800,000 children before their fifth birthday. More than 90% of these deaths occur in developing countries. Pneumonia, the most common form of serious pneumococcal disease, accounts for one in every four child deaths, making it the leading cause of death among young children.

GAVI estimates that the introduction of suitable and affordable vaccines against the disease could save approximately 900,000 lives by 2015 and up to seven million lives by 2030.

The two participating firms have committed to supply 30 million doses each per year, for a 10 year period. These vaccines will be made available at $3.50 per dose to be paid by GAVI and the developing country governments that introduce the vaccines.

For approximately 20% of the doses, companies will also receive an additional payment of $3.50 for each dose they provide, which is paid with donor commitments (AMC funds). In total, this is a fraction of the current cost of pneumococcal vaccines in many industrialised countries.

“GSK is proud to join the AMC partners in this historic effort, which transforms public health in the world’s poorest countries,” said Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline.

“The combined efforts of governments, GAVI, the Gates Foundation and vaccine manufacturers, mean that children in Africa will start to receive vaccines this year to help prevent pneumococcal disease. GSK is delighted to be among the first suppliers of vaccines to GAVI through this innovative mechanism.”

Jeffrey Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer, Pfizer, said: “Pfizer is gratified to participate in this public-private partnership. We commend GAVI and the other AMC partners for their ingenuity in launching an innovative financing mechanism like AMC to bring important new vaccines to least developed countries.”

The aim of this AMC is to stimulate the late-stage development and manufacture of appropriate vaccines at affordable prices. Through the AMC, donors commit money to guarantee the price of vaccines once they have been developed. These commitments help provide vaccine makers with the incentive to invest the considerable sums required to finalise development of vaccines and build adequate manufacturing capacity to serve developing countries.

The introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine is part of GAVI’s ambition to further impact child mortality rates globally. The Alliance also aims to introduce a vaccine against rotavirus, which causes diarrhoea, another major killer, in 41 countries by 2015.

China has largest number of people with diabetes

China has the largest number of people with diabetes according to the International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF).

Previous estimates in the IDF Diabetes Atlas Fourth Edition – published in October 2009 – put the number of people with diabetes in China at 43.2 million, based on the best evidence available at the time.

Now, based on a new study in China published in the New England Journal of Medicine it appears China has overtaken India and become the global epicentre of the diabetes epidemic with 92.4 million adults with the disease.

The new figures reflect a rapid increase in the prevalence of diabetes over recent years.

Dr David Whiting, Epidemiologist and Public Health Specialist, International Diabetes Federation said: “In China, 60.7% are undiagnosed, and this is likely to result from the combination of poor public awareness and limited opportunities for diagnosis.”


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