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CGD Policy Blogs


A Woodstock Moment for Malaria

Excuse me if I chuckle at the analogy between a 3-day meeting on malaria and Woodstock, or even the Oscars. I mean really, as one of my colleagues says, how could Woodstock measure up to malaria? There has been a certain amount of ceremony - starting with the stagey introductions that emanate from behind the tall curtains - and a rock-star build-up to the presence of Bill and Melinda Gates at the meeting this morning.

A Reflection on the AIDS Vaccine Trial: What's the Real Failure?

"Disappointing" is the only word to describe the news that sponsors of the STEP study, testing Merck's AIDS vaccine candidate, have discontinued the Phase IIb trial. Interim analyses showed that the product doesn't prevent infection or reduce the presence of HIV in the blood once someone is infected, calling a halt to tests of the most promising candidate in the field.

Perspectives on PEPFAR from Lusaka: Balancing Successes with Challenges

* This post is co-authored by Caesar Cheelo, Lecturer in the Economics Department at the University of Zambia and Principal Investigator for the HIV/AIDS Monitor Project.

Last week Laura Bush and daughter Jenna Bush stopped in Lusaka as part of their whirlwind four nation tour through Africa to highlight PEPFAR's programs and its achievements in Senegal, Mozambique, Zambia and Mali. The visit of a First Lady of the US to a country in the developing world, cleverly coined as FLOTUS in a related SAIS blog, does two things: 1) it throws the country in to a frantic and often wasteful scramble - whitewashing walls, scrubbing floors and children, rehearsing shows and painting banners - to present the shiniest version of a program on the day of the visit; and 2) it allows the US to loudly herald its success and it should, especially when you consider what its HIV/AIDS program has done in Zambia, a country heavily ravaged by the HIV/AIDS epidemic:About 16 percent of adults are HIV-positive in Zambia, a politically stable, copper-rich but largely impoverished southern African country of 11.5 million. Zambia has been a major recipient of American HIV/AIDS funding. The country received US$149 million (€109 million) in funding through the U.S. President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in fiscal 2006 and will receive almost US$200 million (€149 million) in fiscal 2007. Funding is expected to rise in 2008. While it has struggled to reduce new HIV infections, Zambia's government has put more than 90,000 people on anti-retroviral drugs over the last few years with help from the United States and other partners. The government officially made anti-retroviral drugs free in 2005, though many rural Zambians still find it hard to get care.
PEPFAR and other donors are pouring resources in to Zambia with the clear purpose of supporting the national fight against HIV and this is undoubtedly a good thing. But if those dollars have to keep flowing we need to show what is and what is not being achieved with the money, how and why. CGD's HIV/AIDS Monitor is working with research partners in Africa to examine issues that are central to the global aid effectiveness agenda and some themes that are more specific to HIV/AIDS responses supported by donors and their programs in Africa. Given that data collection for Theme 1 on "Tracking the Funding" is near completion, we invited our country-based research partners to informally share what they have been learning about PEPFAR funding and programs in Zambia in the last 6 months. Their observations point to the success (summarized below) that PEPFAR has had in mobilizing external and domestic resources for HIV/AIDS, in rapidly scaling up treatment and in catalyzing the government to improve public health systems in particular. Early findings about the many challenges (and possible solutions) presented by PEPFAR funds in Zambia are also summarized below.

USG Funding for AIDS Research is No Laughing Matter

Last week's Onion analyzed the breakdown of President Bush's request to double PEPFAR funding to $30 billion:

  • $10 billion: Programs to get people off AIDS and back to work
  • $30 million: Equipping future Black Hawks with crates of pamphlets and condoms, so next time won't be a total loss
  • $1.5 billion: Installing particularly vicious anti-AIDS dictator in Uganda
  • $17 million: Global campaign to promote dry humping

Lighting Up the IP Debate

Victoria Hale, head of OneWorld Health, an innovative non-profit pharmaceutical firm, reckons that compulsory licensing could prove "the last blow" that pushes the drug industry away from looking for cures for diseases of the poor world, which are already woefully neglected...

Bruce Lehman, a lawyer who worked on the TRIPS [sic] accord in the Clinton administration, thinks it is cynical for middle-income countries "to avoid paying their fair share of drug-discovery costs."

Bill Gates to Harvard Grads: Creative Capitalism Saves Lives

gates_then_now_0607.jpgBill Gates finally got a Harvard degree yesterday, about 30 years after he dropped out to go fritter away his time playing with computer code. He also got the chance to exhort this year's graduates to work toward the greater good, applying their education and talents to solving some of the toughest social and economic problems in the world.

Not Yet Breathing Easy About TB

Pop quiz: What disease killed John Keats at age 26, John Harvard at 30, Simon Bolivar at 47, Puccini's Mimi right after "Sono Andati?" - and now kills 4,400 people every day, most in the prime of their lives? Answer: TB, an ancient scourge whose current manifestations demonstrate both the highs and the lows of global public health.

Beating the Market

The vaccine industry is looking healthier and happier than it has in years, according to The Economist, thanks to the combination of new science, new money and new recognition of the value of prevention. The advances in adjuvants - ingredients in vaccines that make the antigens go further and work better - and new ways to deliver vaccines without needles, such as nasal sprays mean that genuine innovations are hitting the market.