Tag Archives: United Nations

HIV effort let down by test shortages, says WHO

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

The Most Revd Ephraim S Fajutagana, Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, undergoes an HIV test as part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines public campaign to remove the stigma associated with HIV/Aids.

A shortage of HIV testing could undermine global efforts to diagnose and treat people with the infection, warn experts from the World Health Organization.  They looked at responses to annual surveys that the WHO had sent to 127 countries between 2012 and 2014 asking about capacity and usage of blood tests that check HIV status and health.

Story via BBC

They found worrying gaps in provision. They warn that United Nation targets for HIV could be missed as a result.

The targets say that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV should know their HIV status, 90% of those diagnosed should receive antiretroviral therapy and 90% of these treated patients should have “durable viral suppression” (a measure of effective treatment).

Laboratory testing is vital to meet and monitor these aims.

But Vincent Habiyambere and his colleagues say in the journal PLoS Medicine that some low and middle-income countries, including African countries where the HIV burden is high, are not yet geared up for the challenge.

The surveys were sent to:

  • all 47 countries in the WHO African Region
  • 33 countries in the WHO Region of the Americas
  • all 21 countries in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region
  • eight high-burden HIV countries in the WHO European Region
  • all 11 countries in the WHO South-East Asia Region
  • seven high-burden HIV countries in the WHO Western Pacific Region

Over the three survey years, 55 (43%) countries responded to all three surveys, 35 (28%) to two surveys, 25 (20%) to one survey, and nine (7%) responded to none of the three surveys.

Testing provision did improve over the years, but shortfalls remained in some parts of the world.

Worrying gaps

Reasons for the gaps in provision included lack of reagents, equipment not being installed or maintained properly and inadequate or absent staff training. In some laboratories, machines were not serviced regularly. In others, machines broke down and were not covered by contracts to be serviced or fixed.

Dr Habiyambere and his team say: “A national laboratory strategic plan to strengthen services must be developed, implemented, and monitored by governments and their national and international partners.

“The focus of the international community, to ensure optimal use of laboratory technologies, should be on those countries where interventions for scaling up access to HIV diagnostic technologies are most needed.”

They acknowledge that they did not look at private sector testing and that some countries might rely more heavily on this than others.

In an accompanying editorial, HIV experts Peter Kilmarx and Raiva Simbi say the findings show some programmes may have been “overly focused” on buying equipment without planning for how it would be used and maintained.

In Zimbabwe, for example, only 5.6% of HIV patients on drug treatment in 2015 received regular blood checks to monitor their viral load – far fewer than the goal of 21%.  This was largely down to problems with resource mobilisation and specimen transport as well as equipment procurement, they say.

“Strong leadership, resources, planning, and management are needed to scale up laboratory services,” they conclude.

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Education for awareness of and attitudes to HIV

Positive? (www.learningpositive.com) is a HIV information service website and the end work of the commitment and hard work of many UK Stakeholders, Partners and key players who in many different ways gave of their time, skills and expertise to help put together this innovative teaching and learning resource.

This highly accessible teaching and learning tool will challenge you, engage you, and empower you. By working through the different sections of the website, on your own, with friends or under the direction of your teacher, you will deepen your understanding of the facts about HIV whilst increasing your awareness of its social impact.

The interactive website is a tool to teach young people about HIV, how it affects people in the UK, how to prevent it spreading and how to reduce the discrimination experienced by those living with HIV. It also provides insights into the global dimension of the epidemic and introduces a series of interactive activities to raise awareness among the new generation and encourage positive, campaigning action to be taken.

As well as learning about HIV for yourself, you will also use your knowledge and understanding to develop an original campaign to advocate for people with HIV. As you work through the various activities, remember to think about which information would work well in raising awareness about key issues related to HIV.

The site helps to educate issues such as prejudice and stigma, discrimination, criminalisation and human rights and many more.  Check it out, it’s very useful for yourself and to pass to others.

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The virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV

With the right programs and financing, the UN and its partners have said that, by 2015, virtually no HIV-positive mother will have to pass along HIV to her newborn — an exciting goal that can be achieved in just a few short years.

But Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) can be a confusing process.  PMTCT isn’t exactly an acronym that rolls off your tongue, and the process by which transmission is prevented is a bit complicated, requiring different paths of treatment and follow-up tailored to the mother and child.

Fortunately, UNAIDS have made a great infographic that details the steps required along the way to ensure that a baby can be born HIV-negative. It works a little like a “choose your own adventure” story — except with far more important, real-world consequences. Try following a few different paths through the infographic, keeping an eye out for the percentages built into the circles. The smaller the percentage, the more the baby is likely to be born HIV-free — a happy ending, indeed!

Source: UNAIDS (Outlook 30, 2011 Report).

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AIDS Related Deaths ‘Down 21% From Peak’ – Says UNAids

Aids-related deaths are at the lowest level since their 2005 peak, down 21%, figures from UNAids suggest.

Globally, the number of new HIV infections in 2010 was 21% down on that peak, seen in 1997, according to UNAids 2011 report.

The organisation says both falls have been fuelled by a major expansion in access to treatment.

Its executive director, Michel Sidibe, said: “We are on the verge of a significant breakthrough.  Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the Aids response.  We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”

This latest analysis says the number of people living with HIV has reached a record 34 million.  Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the most dramatic improvement, with a 20% rise in people undergoing treatment between 2009 and 2010.

About half of those eligible for treatment are now receiving it.

UNAids estimates 700,000 deaths were averted last year because of better access to treatment.  That has also helped cut new HIV infections, as people undergoing care are less likely to infect others.

In 2010 there were an estimated 2.7m new HIV infections, down from 3.2m in 1997, and 1.8m people died from Aids-related illnesses, down from 2.2m in 2005.

The figures continue the downward trend reported in previous UNAids reports.  The UN agency said: “The number of new HIV infections is 30-50% lower now than it would have been in the absence of universal access to treatment for eligible people living with HIV.”

Some countries have seen particularly striking improvements.

In Namibia, treatment access has reached 90% and condom use rose to 75%, resulting in a 60% drop in new infections by 2010.

UNAids says the full preventive impact of treatment is likely to be seen in the next five years, as more countries improve treatment.

Its report added that even if the Aids epidemic was not over: “The end may be in sight if countries invest smartly.”

The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres urged governments to keep up their funding.

MSF’s Tido von Schoen-Angerer, said: “Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV/Aids, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around.

“Governments in some of the hardest hit countries want to act on the science, seize this moment and reverse the Aids epidemic. But this means nothing if there’s no money to make it happen.”

The International HIV/Aids Alliance said: “We welcome the ongoing commitment of UNAids to changing behaviours, changing social norms and changing laws, alongside efforts to improve access to HIV treatment.

“For bigger and better impact though, we must not be complacent. There is still much more to do.”

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Young People Key to Reversing the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

A report by The Global Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) titled ‘Securing the Future’ on HIV and Young People  has stated that global commitments to HIV eradication will only be achieved if the needs of the young people are recognized and if their human rights are met and protected. The IATT report stresses that young people are a key resource in reversing the AIDS epidemic. They note that the legal and policy barriers that prevent young people from accessing HIV services must first be addressed in order for young people to become more effectively engaged in the response.

The youth-led response has been effective, as data from UNAIDS shows that young people are leading the “HIV prevention revolution”,  taking more action to protect themselves and changing their sexual behaviours in order to avoid contracting the disease. As a result, in 15 out of the 21 countries worst affected by HIV/AIDS, the HIV prevalence among young people is dropping.

This trend is overwhelmingly positive considering that in 2009 young people accounted for 41% of all new infections, with 3000 new infections every day. In 2009, in total, there were 4.9 million youths living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. These statistics illustrate the urgent need to tailor HIV prevention and treatment programmes in order to reduce infections worldwide.

A side event to the United Nations meeting on youth in New York, (under the theme of “Youth: Dialogue and mutual understanding”) allowed many young people to have direct conversations with policy-makers to encourage an increase in HIV prevention and treatment services for young people, as well as to encourage more active involvement and leadership of young people in the AIDS response. At this event several agencies collaborated (including UNFPA, ILO, Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Population Council and Catholic Relief Services and UNAIDS) alongside the young leaders and governments, to look for solutions to reach their shared mission of “Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS-related deaths” among young people.

The report also acknowledges that simply directing more resources towards the youth population will not necessarily increase HIV testing and uptake of services. Instead, it argues that there is a need to empower young people, especially young women, to exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights. By doing so, the “HIV prevention revolution” can continue with vigour. The report also agues that there is a need to improve programmes for young people and to repeal national laws and policies that restrict access to HIV services. It is therefore, once again, not only an issue of lack of treatments or even lack of young people’s adherence to the treatments and preventing illness, but rather an issue of lack of political will to address the laws and policies that restrict access to services.

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