Global Fund Seeks $14bn To Fight AIDS, Others

The Global Fund Executive Director Peter Sands, delivers a speech on October 9, 2019 in Lyon, during The Global Funds Sixth Replenishment Conference. JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

 

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Wednesday opened a drive to raise $14 billion to fight the global epidemics but face an uphill battle in the face of donor fatigue.

Host President Emmanuel Macron is to chair the final day of the two-day meeting in the French city of Lyon on Thursday and meet African heads of state.

The fund has asked for $14 billion, an amount it says would help save 16 million lives, avert “234 million infections” and place the world back on track to meet the UN objective of ending the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria within 10 years.

“I count on every one of you to bring together the financing necessary to give the Global Fund the means necessary to support the worst affected countries,” said French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn as the meeting opened.

“We are here to send a strong signal. A collective, universal and ambitious signal,” she added.

The UN’s World Health Organization says 770,000 people died of HIV-related causes last year. Tuberculosis, a high risk for HIV-positive people, claimed some 1.7 million lives in 2017, and malaria more than 430,000.

 ‘Anything more a success’ 

The meeting is the sixth to replenish the fund since it was set up in 2002, with prominent supporters including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and U2 lead singer Bono in attendance.

But officials said ahead of the meeting that collecting such a large sum could prove challenging, especially as global attention moves from AIDS towards fighting climate change.

Anything more than the $13 billion pledged at the fund’s last meeting three years ago in Montreal “will be considered a success”, said an official in the French presidency.

Macron, however, made it clear at the UN General Assembly in September that he expected no less than $14 billion, saying “no-one any longer can understand” that people are unable to access medicines for the deadly disease trio.

NGOs insist even more is needed — as much as $18 billion.

 ‘Less not acceptable’ 

Some countries have announced their contribution. The US is the number one donor with a $4.68 billion contribution voted by Congress.

Britain is set to pledge $1.7 billion and Germany $1.1 billion. It remains to be seen what France will contribute, although Macron has vowed it will be worthy of the country’s historical status as the Fund’s number two donor.

France also wants the private sector to play a bigger role, and the fund is seeking $1 billion of the total from the business world.

“No amount less than $14 billion will be acceptable,” the AIDES and Coalition PLUS NGOs said in a statement, urging France to ramp up its contribution by 25 percent.

“We are here to remember that behind this financial bargaining there are human lives,” said AIDES president Aurelien Beaucamp.

AIDES said that as things stand now, the meeting risks falling $200-$500 million short of its target.

Macron will meet leaders including Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou and Cameroon President Paul Biya, while Rwandan President Paul Kagame is also set to be in attendance.

The Global Fund groups states, NGOs and private firms to support public health programmes around the world, investing about $4 billion every year.

It says it has helped save 32 million lives and provided prevention, treatment and care services to hundreds of millions of people, while the number of deaths caused by AIDS, TB and malaria each year has been reduced by 40 percent since 2002 in countries where the Fund invests.

AFP

10-Fold Surge In S.Africa Teens Treated For HIV

 

The number of young people in South Africa receiving treatment for HIV has increased 10-fold within a decade, a major new study has found.

South Africa has the largest number of HIV-positive people in the world, with around 7.2 million carrying the virus, which causes AIDS.

Researchers studied more than 700,000 young people receiving treatment for the infection and found 10 times the number of adolescents aged between 15-19 being treated compared with 2010.

Authors of the study, published in The Lancet HIV journal attributed the rise partly due to the success of AIDS prevention programmes that result in better detection and treatment rates.

READ ALSO: Lagos Govt Commences Investigation Into Reported Disease Outbreak In Queens College

However, they found that fewer than 50 percent of young South Africans who present for HIV care go on to initiate antiretroviral therapy, which can prevent transmission and stops a patient from developing AIDS.

“Despite the upswing in numbers initiating therapy, barriers persist that prevent many adolescents from starting treatment,” said Mhairi Maskew from the University of Witwatersrand and the report’s lead author.

These include concerns about stigma, a pervasive sense that clinics cannot guarantee patient confidentiality and increased domestic responsibilities for young people, especially in families where children have lost parents to HIV and AIDS.

The study found that while those diagnosed with HIV were roughly split by gender, nine in 10 people actively receiving treatment were girls.

The authors said this was consistent with far higher rates of sexually-transmitted HIV infection in young women compared to young men.

AIDS deaths have declined globally since the peak of the epidemic in the early 2000s, but an international AIDS commission warned last year of a resurgence if the world’s booming adolescent population weren’t protected.

UN Appoints New HIV/AIDS Chief After Controversy

 

 

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed a new HIV/AIDS chief on Wednesday after the previous incumbent left accused of serious mismanagement.

Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima of Uganda will lead UNAIDS, a spokesperson for Guterres said in a statement.

She succeeds Michel Sidibe who stepped down in May after he was accused of creating “a patriarchal culture tolerating harassment and abuse of authority.”

An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) report commissioned by UNAIDS’s governing body said the agency’s culture under Sidibe also failed “to uphold the United Nations’ laws and values.”

Sidibe left UNAIDS after a decade-long tenure to become Mali’s health minister.

Guterres continued to praise Sidibe despite his being reprimanded for mishandling a sexual assault investigation involving one of his top deputies.

Sidibe’s divisive era led AIDS experts to voice concern over the future of the UN body, which UNAIDS leads a global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

In the statement announcing Byanyima’s appointment, Guterres said she “brings a wealth of experience and commitment in harnessing the power of government, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to end the HIV and AIDS crisis for communities around the world.”

Byanyima, 60, said she was “honored” to be joining UNAIDS “at such a critical time in the response to HIV.”

AIDS-related illnesses have killed 35 million people since the first cases were reported more than 35 years ago.

AFP

Second HIV Remission Patient Rekindles Hope Of Cure

 

For just the second time ever an HIV patient is in sustained remission from the virus in what was hailed by experts Tuesday as proof that the AIDS-causing condition could one day be curable.

Ten years almost to the day since the first confirmed case of an HIV-infected person being rid of the deadly disease, a man known only as the “London patient” has shown no sign of the virus for nearly 19 months, doctors reported in the journal Nature.

Both patients underwent bone marrow transplants to treat blood cancers, receiving stem cells from donors with a genetic mutation present in less than one percent of Europeans that prevents HIV from taking hold.

“It is a landmark. After 10 years of not being able to replicate (the first case), people were wondering if this was a fluke,” said lead author Ravindra Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge.

“I think it is important to reaffirm that this is real and it can be done,” Gupta told AFP.

However, he was very careful at a press conference in Seattle, Washington, to avoid using the word “cure,” noting instead that “in another six months or two years, things will be clearer.”

Millions of people infected with HIV around the globe keep the disease in check with so-called antiretroviral therapy (ARV), but the treatment does not rid patients of the virus.

Close to 37 million people are living with HIV worldwide, but only 59 percent are receiving ARV. Nearly one million people die every year from HIV-related causes.

A new drug-resistant form of HIV is also a growing concern.

The first sustained remission survivor, announced in 2009 as “the Berlin patient” and later named as American Timothy Brown, was given two transplants and underwent total body irradiation to treat leukaemia — a process that nearly killed him.

Gupta said that although a second successful transplant did not constitute a generalised cure, it showed that even milder forms of treatment can achieve full remission.

“There are a number of learning points here,” he said. “Radiation has a lot of side-effects and leads to a delayed recovery of the bone marrow, so it’s really good that we’ve shown you don’t need radiation.

“The Berlin patient also had two rounds of chemotherapy because the first one didn’t work. We’ve done ours just once, and it was also a milder form, which is important,” he added.

‘HIV is curable’

Both patients received stem cell transplants from donors carrying a genetic mutation that prevents expression of an HIV receptor, known as CCR5.

The London patient was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and had been on antiretroviral therapy since 2012.

Later that year, he was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a deadly cancer.

He underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016 from a donor with two copies of a CCR5 gene variant, which is resistant to most HIV-1 virus strains.

“CCR5 is something essential for the virus to complete its life-cycle and we can’t knock out many other things without causing harm to the patient,” said Gupta.

“We know that CCR5 can be knocked out without any serious consequences because people are walking around without that gene.”

CCR5 was the target in the genome of the controversial gene-edited twins born last year in China, whose father is HIV-positive.

Experts cautiously welcomed Tuesday’s announcement.

The International AIDS Society said in a statement Tuesday that results from the second patient “reaffirm our belief that there exists a proof of concept that HIV is curable”.

Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, told AFP that the second case showed a cure was “feasible”.

New communities

After the bone marrow transplant, the London patient remained on ARV for 16 months, at which point treatment was stopped.

Regular testing has confirmed that the patient’s viral load remained undetectable since then.

But scientists were keen to stress that the technique is likely only viable among a tiny percentage of sufferers.

“Due to the rarity of suitable donors, this precise approach will not be available to all HIV patients,” said Aine McKnight, professor of Viral Pathology at Queen Mary University, London.

“However, this work has the potential to stimulate research into more generally applicable therapies.”

Gupta said he hoped to expand research on the stem-cell transplant technique to focus on communities in Africa, where the HIV-beating mutation does not naturally occur.

“Expanding remission to populations that are affected disproportionately is quite important,” he told AFP.

AIDS Patients Sue Gambia’s Ex-President Jammeh Over Fake Cures

Families Of Jammeh's Victims In Gambia Demand 'Truth'
Former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh

 

Three people living with AIDS in Gambia are suing former president Yahya Jammeh.

They alleged that the former president detained and abused them as guinea pigs to test his supposed cure for AIDS.

“My clients are claiming damages for false imprisonment and (declaring) that the defendant subjected the plaintiffs to inhumane and degrading treatment contrary to the constitution” while they underwent Jammeh’s alleged HIV/AIDS cure, one of their lawyers Combeh Gaye told AFP shortly after filing the suit on Thursday.

Jammeh, who has lived in Equatorial Guinea since January 2017 when armed intervention helped end his tough 22-year rule, claimed to possess a range of mystical gifts, including the power to cure asthma, epilepsy and sterility as well as AIDS, using plants and chants.

The AIDS patients who have gone to court are two men of 63 and 64 years old and a woman of 51. They are members of associations that support people living with HIV/AIDS.

Shortly after Jammeh in January 2007 publicly announced his “discovery” of an AIDS cure, the three plaintiffs and six other people, including a minor, were invited to meet the president at State House and became his “first batch” of experimental subjects.

In their court case, they testified that top among Jammeh’s “rules was that the members of the group should immediately desist from using any anti-retroviral drugs and/or any other form of conventional medication” given to people with HIV/AIDS.

Jammeh kept the patients locked up during some six months of treatment until July 2007, brushing aside their objections to being filmed during the alleged therapeutic sessions. They later learned that videos had been broadcast on state media, including official GRTS television, the three plaintiffs said.

Despite the ineffective and painful nature of the supposed remedy, the first batch of subjects backed up Jammeh’s claim to have cured them when they were discharged. The court case specifies that they “were compelled by fear and threats from the defendant’s agents”.

Then health minister Tamsir Mbowe joined Jammeh in “false and misleading claims”, encouraging “numerous” other people with HIV actively to seek magical treatment, the plaintiffs argue.

A Muslim onetime soldier, Jammeh seized power in a bloodless 1994 coup in the former British colony, a small enclave of a nation inside Senegal either side of the Gambia river and with an Atlantic seaboard.

From 1996, the increasingly erratic leader won successive presidential elections until he was beaten by opposition candidate Adama Barrow in December 2016, agreed to step down and then changed his mind.

After a six-week political crisis, Jammeh left the country on January 21, 2017, in the wake of military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and a final mediation bid.

AFP

Inconsistent Data Affecting FG’s Efforts On HIV/AIDS Control, Says Minister

Health Minister Suspends Eight Top NHIS Officials
File Photo

 

The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, says inaccurate data of people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria has negatively impacted on Federal Government’s efforts to control the spread of the disease in the country.

The minister made the observation at the signing of a 20 million dollars funding, for the Nigeria HIV/AIDS indicator and impact assessment survey.

The minister, however, expressed confidence that the new deal will assist the government in planning its approaches to eliminating HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

He noted that an accurate survey will be carried across the 36 states of the federation with a view to ascertain the actual number of people living with the disease.

The survey is also expected to eliminate the huge barrier to planning which includes the lack of accurate data; hence the U.S government needs the support of all for the survey to succeed.

In 2015, the National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS (NACA) estimated HIV prevalence in Nigeria at 3.03 million. The agency also reported a drop in new infections rate from 130, 295 in 2010 to 104, 388 in 2015.

These figures, however, have become obsolete for effective planning.

Accurate data is arguably crucial for effective planning and distribution of resources to combat the spread of the disease and with the signing of this agreement, it is hoped that the Nigeria Government will have reliable data to plan, going forward.

Campaigners Incensed At Failings In Africa AIDS War

Angry AIDS activists are urging western and central Africa to step up the fight against HIV, saying millions of people, especially children, are at risk from complacency and underfunding.

A six-day conference in Africa has thrown a stark light on the problems in a region whose two dozen nations extend from Mauritania in the north to Gabon in the south, and include some of the poorest countries in the world.

Coalition Plus, an alliance of AIDS groups, said AIDS-related deaths in western and central Africa are running at 5.1 percent, more than twice the 2.1 percent in the rest of the continent.

The region accounts for just six percent of the global population, but has at least 16 percent of the total of the world’s adults — categorised as people aged over 15 — who live with HIV.

The share rises even more dramatically, to 25 percent, in the category of infected children aged from birth up to 14 years.

Even though the HIV pandemic is more than four decades old, nearly 80 percent of the estimated 540,000 infected children in West and Central Africa are not getting life-saving antiretroviral therapy, the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF and AIDS programme UNAIDS said on Tuesday.

“HIV and AIDS pose direct threats to the lives of 820,000 children and adolescents,” they said in a report issued at the ICASA conference which ends on Saturday. “Yet we know what works.”

– ‘Scandalous’ rise in youth mortality –

In 2016, an estimated 60,000 children were newly infected with HIV in West and Central Africa, it said.

Among adolescents aged 15-19, AIDS-related deaths are on the rise. Among the 10-19 age group, 16,000 people died last year, a rise of 35 percent over 2010.

“The rise in youth mortality is a scandal,” Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s director for West and Central Africa, told AFP.

“Most of these teenagers are unaware of their HIV status,” she said.

“Everyone is responsible. Support from international donors is insufficient for the region’s needs. And governments must give priority to the fight against AIDS, even if they have limited resources,” she said.

The situation is not entirely bleak — the region slashed mother-to-child transmission of HIV by a third from 2010 and 2016 — nor is it the same everywhere.

– 1.3 million awaiting treatment –

Adult HIV prevalence ranges from less than 0.4 percent in Niger to 6.2 percent in Equatorial Guinea, the figures show. Nearly half of all infected children in the region are in Nigeria.

But the major problems are common, say experts.

One is the lack of so-called point-of-care HIV tests, so that a patient can be diagnosed and immediately treated — a major step in prevention.

Another is availability of antiretroviral drugs, which suppress the virus but do not eliminate it.

The cost of AIDS therapy has plummeted since the first triple-therapy drug regimen became available in 1996, and access to the lifeline — taken in a simple once-a-day pill — is spreading across parts of Africa.

In West and Central Africa, though, 1.3 million people who know they have HIV are still awaiting treatment.

Stigma and discrimination, as well as homophobia, are factors that help the virus to spread underground.

“We have to shift up gears, to that of ’emergency response,’ we have to mobilise all of society — government, civil society, families,” said Poirier.

AFP

U.S. Awards Grants To Children Orphaned By HIV/AIDS

The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria on Friday announced a 2.9 million Naira micro-grant to 50 women caregivers, to support the economic wellbeing of their families, particularly the vulnerable children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in five local communities in Apapa local government area of Lagos.

Under the U.S. Ambassador’s PEPFAR Small Grants Program, a local non-governmental organisation, Blissful Life for Women and Children, will provide training to the beneficiaries of the micro-grants in the areas of business and vocational skills and trade mentorship, and will receive trade articles and supplies.

Ten older orphans and vulnerable children whose parents are living with HIV will also benefit from the training.

Blissful Life for Women and Children is one of 27 local organisations that have received funding under the U.S. Ambassador’s PEPFAR Small Grants Program in the fiscal year 2017.

At an event held in Lagos and attended by senior local government officials, health, and community leaders, Acting U.S. Consul General Will Steuer said: “The people and government of the United States continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nigeria and Nigerian families in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“Today’s event highlights the importance of supporting families, especially children who are affected by HIV/AIDS through programs that not only support treatment for the infected, but also to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of families affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as the PEPFAR Small Grants Program seeks to do.”

Beneficiaries of the various training programs are expected to empower themselves and their families by building small businesses that will create more reliable income flows and improve their standard of living.

The U.S.-Nigeria partnership on HIV/AIDS began in 2004 through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

From 2004 to 2016, United States support for HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support programs in Nigeria has totalled more than 4.3 billion U.S. dollars in support of the Nigeria HIV/AIDS response.

All Hands Must Be On Deck To Prevent HIV/AIDS – NACA

hiv virusAll hands must be on deck to scale up the prevention of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, especially government intervention and support to persons living with the disease.

This was the challenge from the acting Director General of the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), Mr Kayode Ogungbemi, as Nigeria prepares to mark the annual World AIDS Day.

Mr Ogungbemi explained that out of the one million persons targeted yearly for intervention and treatment, the federal government is only able to handle 100,000 cases, with 90% dependent on donor countries and agencies.

He said this during a special church service at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Life Camp, Abuja, which was held for the management and staff of the NACA.

The event coincided with the 27th anniversary of the church and was the first of series of events lined up to mark the AIDS day, coming up on Thursday, December 1, 2016.

With the theme, “Hands Up For HIV Prevention”, the focus of this year would be to explore strategies for HIV prevention, known to be cheaper and safer than cure.

The Director General stressed that despite the successes recorded in the treatment of persons living with HIV/AIDS, there is still much to be done to scale up prevention.

Bishop of the Anglican Primate Of Nigeria, Reverend Nicholas Okoh, also advocated faith for persons living with the disease, saying that their fate could change for the better.

Alongside intensified research, other areas that the agency seeks to pay more attention to include HIV testing and counseling, voluntary medical male circumcision, prevention of mother to child transmission, use of condoms, treatment, zero discrimination, among others.

FG To Increase Health Budget In 2017 – Udoma

Budget, Udo Udoma, HealthThe Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, says that the Federal Government will increase budgetary allocation to the health sector in the 2017 budget, in its commitment to improving the sector in Nigeria.

Mr Udoma made this known when the Regional Director of World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, visited him in his office in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

“This administration is committed to providing adequate fund for the health sector.

“We hope to upscale the budget for health next year compared to what is obtained in this year’s budget. Also we are designing effective policies to improve the sector,” he said.

While commending the WHO for aligning their programmes with government’s priorities, the Minister stated that healthcare provision was a top priority for the present administration.

He congratulated Dr. Moeti for being the first woman to hold the office of the WHO Regional Director and also praised her for fighting against diseases such as AIDS in Africa.

In an earlier speech, the WHO official commended Nigeria for its success in handling a number of diseases such as Ebola and also removing Nigeria from the list of endemic countries suffering from Polio.

She further solicited for efforts to sustaining the gains achieved so far.

“How Nigeria has successfully handled number of diseases like Ebola and Polio has been commendable especially in the area of preparedness, surveillance.

“We need to sustain the polio gain until totally removed,” she said.

Dr. Moeti said that WHO is pleased with Nigeria for identifying and making the health sector a top priority.

Nigerian Navy Offers Free Medical Care In Maiduguri IDP Camp

medical services, Nigerian NavyThe Nigerian Navy, as part of their diamond jubilee celebrations are offering free medical services to displaced people in Maiduguri.

The free medical services named Medical Rhapsody, held in Dalori1, a selected Displaced People’s camp in the state capital.

Dalori1 is one of the 22 government-recognised displaced people’s camps within Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.

One of the beneficiaries is a mother of four abducted girls, Falmata Mustapha, battling with diabetes without medication since she fled from insurgents in her hometown, Bama.

The medical outreach was a lifesaver for her as money and drugs or the correct diet to control her condition have been out of her reach.

The Navy offered free drugs for the treatment of malaria, blood pressure check for the elderly and pregnant women, deworming for children, as well as multivitamins among others.

Part of the activities also included public health lectures by the naval medical team on topical issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, environmental, personal and oral hygiene.

The gesture was mentorship-oriented, intended to stir up ambition in younger ones from the benefitting communities.

Meanwhile, the Borno State government, again pleaded with the armed forces to consider recruiting members of the youth vigilante assisting in the insurgency war.

Deputy Governor, Usman Durkwa, made his request to top ranking officers of the Nigerian Navy.

He said that the Borno State government was worried about the fate of the teeming jobless youths when the insurgency war is brought to an operational end with their services no longer required.

Some of the youth vigilante volunteers also known as the Civilian Joint Task Force are also anxious about getting jobs to confront poverty.

Experts Decry Stigmatisation Against HIV/AIDS Patients

hiv virusThe National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) says discrimination against people living with HIV remains a major challenge to eliminating new infections.

This is coming one year after the National HIV and AIDS Anti-discrimination Bill was signed into law.

The Director-General of NACA, Professor John Idoko, lamented that continued discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS was an obstacle to achieving the 90% reduction of new infections and death by the year 2030.

Professor Idoko made the remarks at a gathering to unveil the popular version of the HIV and Aids Anti-discrimination Law in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

The Country Program Manager, AIDS Health Care Foundation, Adetayo Towolawi, said the event was organised to enable less educated people living with HIV/AIDS know and enforce their rights.

The National Secretary of the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWAN), Abdulkadri Ibrahim, also said that despite the enactment of the law, discrimination is making access to treatment difficult for their members.