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Mozambique’s first HIV vaccine trial underway

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2013

HIV vaccine trial underway

MAPUTO,  – Mozambique has completed its first HIV vaccine trial and is set to embark on a second, a demonstration of the country’s increased HIV research capacity.

Last month, Researchers at Mozambique’s Polana Cancio Centre for Research and Public Health completed a trial evaluating the safety of an HIV vaccine candidate. The study was conducted through the UK HIV Vaccine Consortium’s Tanzania and Mozambique HIV Vaccine Programme (TaMoVac). Preliminary results from the Phase I trial indicated the vaccine was safe, but researchers say it will be months before they know if the vaccine produced an immune response in participants.

The country also launched its second HIV vaccine trial, this one of a Phase II HIV vaccine candidate, also through TaMoVac, this week. As part of this multi-site study, which is taking place in both Mozambique and Tanzania, Mozambique will recruit 20 percent of the 200-patient sample.

According to Ilesh Jani, director general of Mozambique’s National Institute of Health, the studies, while small, mark important first steps towards bolstering clinical trial and research capacity for diseases such as HIV and malaria. These diseases, along with malnutrition, continue to drive death rates in the country.

“We should be in the driver’s seat, not sitting in the back of the car waiting for someone to find the answer,” Jani told IRIN/PlusNews. “We need to get involved and take leadership to find the solutions.”

“Maybe we don’t yet have the capacity to develop these products in the lab, but we have the capacity to test them and accelerate discovery,” he added.

Larger HIV vaccines trials in the pipeline

The centre – which is located on the outskirts of the capital city, Maputo – aims to help the National Institute of Health understand the health concerns of the country’s increasingly peri-urban population.

“Maybe half of Mozambique will be living in peri-urban areas in the next 10 years,” Jani said. “It’s a setting where we don’t completely understand the determinants of health.”

Understanding these determinants will require household mapping and an HIV prevalence study. Researchers at the centre expect that this study will show an HIV prevalence rate of at least three percent in the local community.

If this is true, Polana Cancio could become a clinical research site for larger, more advanced HIV vaccine trials. Nationally, Mozambique has an HIV prevalence rate of about 11 percent, according to UNAIDS.

The centre will also be conducting a study into common causes of fever.

Jani added that, while it might not be possible for the all the products tested by the centre to enter the market patent-free, he hopes that products tested at the centre – and found to be effective – will be affordable for use in countries like Mozambique.

llg/kn/rz source

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There is a seven billion dollar gap in global HIV funding

Posted by African Press International on November 12, 2012

There is a seven billion dollar gap in global HIV funding

NAIROBI,  (PlusNews) – Private philanthropists in the European Union and the US spent some US$644 million on global HIV/AIDS programmes in 2011, a 5 percent increase from 2010, largely driven by funding from a small number of large donors, a new report has revealed.
In their annual report, two groups – the US-based Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) and the European HIV/AIDS Funders Group (EFG) – reported that US funders spent $491 million in 2011 while EU funders spent $170 million. Although the amount of money donated by private funders grew, the growth could be attributed to a few large donors; several other donors had, in fact, reduced their funding.
“We look at it as level growth; we’ve identified a few new funders, but the growth is mild,” Sarah Hamilton, of the FCAA, told IRIN/PlusNews. “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a few others are the main donors driving the growth. If you take them out, there was actually an overall decrease in private philanthropy for HIV. The donor field is concentrated at the top; the top ten donors in the US contribute about 80 percent of total funds, while in the EU they contribute about 82 percent.”
“The decrease could be a result of the economy, but we’ve also seen donors become more focused on other areas, some related to HIV, such as maternal health, health systems and reproductive health,” she added.

  • Where has the money gone?

An estimated 44 percent of US funding was targeted at programmes with a global aim. East and Southern Africa received $69 million – the most of any region outside the US – followed by South Asia and the Pacific, which received $40 million, and East and Southeast Asia, which got $22 million.
About half of all EU funding in 2011 was targeted at projects in countries and regions outside western and central Europe, while one-third went to programmes with a global aim. Twelve percent of EU funding was spent in western and central Europe.
Much of the funding was directed towards research; the top target populations for US funding were medical research teams and projects focusing on women, men who have sex with men, and youth. The EU funders mainly targeted orphans and vulnerable children, youth, and women.
“Private philanthropy has the advantage of being better able to support programmes that may not receive adequate government funding or support. Some of the areas with gaps in funding are, in the US, men who have sex with men, and worldwide, prevention of mother-to-child transmission,” Hamilton said.
She noted that trends towards “non-restricted” and “multi-year” funding indicate donors have confidence in the accountability and impact of the programmes they support.

  • Shared responsibility

The report’s authors note that 2012 funding is forecasted to remain level. Experts are calling for greater funding, not only from the private funders but also from western governments and beneficiary nations.
Low- and middle-income countries are increasing their contributions to the HIV response, investing  some $8.6 billion in 2011, an increase of 11 percent compared to 2010, according to a UNAIDS reportreleased in July.

''The donor field is concentrated at the top; the top ten donors on the US contribute about 80 percent of total funds, while in the EU they contribute about 82 percent''

The international community contributed $8.2 billion.
“We are in an era where shared responsibility for the AIDS response is vitally important. Countries are stepping up their domestic investments for HIV, but there is still a $7 billion gap between what is needed and what is available,”

Paul De Lay, deputy executive director for programmes at UNAIDS, said in a statement. “Philanthropic investments for AIDS are extremely important, particularly in supporting civil society-led engagement, which can often be missing from larger-scale donor-funding plans.”
Hamilton said the FCAA and the EFG were working to identify new funders, both in the west and around the world.
“Regardless of the numbers, we are proud of and excited by the funders’ support, especially in these economic times,” she said. “As the report notes, there has been a decline in funding – we need to build on the political and financial commitment to HIV.”




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Media still need training on HIV

Posted by African Press International on November 3, 2012

NAIROBI, 1 November 2012 (PlusNews) – Scourge. Plague. Killer disease. All are terms still routinely used by Kenya’s media to describe the HIV epidemic more than thirty years after it was first identified. Experts say the media needs to step up to promote a better understanding of the illness.
“The use of words like ‘scourge’ or ‘sufferer’ in the media to refer to HIV/AIDS or to people living with it… shows the disease is such a bad thing, yet there are people living with it, and examples are countless, who are doing normal things and leading normal lives,” Allan Maleche, a human rights lawyer and head of the Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS, told IRIN/PlusNews. “Stigma has been one of the issues that helped HIV to spread, and there is need to train the media on how to report HIV in less stigmatizing ways.” Media outlets often concentrate on the more salacious or scandalous details of stories involving HIV rather than the more informative, educational aspects. One woman interviewed by a Kenyan TV station earlier this year told IRIN/PlusNews of her disappointment when the story was broadcast. “The journalists dwelt mainly on how I got infected instead of how I protected my unborn child from infection, which was my main aim of calling the journalist,” she said.
  • Difficult to cover
Journalists IRIN/PlusNews spoke to said stories about HIV were more difficult to cover than other news stories, involving in-depth research, a strong understanding of scientific subjects and tough interviews dealing with very personal issues. “Covering HIV and AIDS is… a sensitive area and… you have to look at issues from the [position] of the interviewee… People living with HIV are often misjudged, blamed for ‘getting it’, which in turn leads to their being stigmatized and shunned,” Waweru Mugo, a freelance Kenyan journalist who has written extensively on HIV, told IRIN/PlusNews. “This therefore requires a journalist to be careful with the language [so] that [it] does not discriminate and stigmatize further.”
“I suggest that journalists are trained and retrained in the use of language, for it requires ethical and professional handling,” he added. Jane Thuo, chief executive officer of the Association of Media Women in Kenya, noted that there is a need to ensure HIV continues to receive press coverage amid newer, equally serious
health issues such as cancer and other non-communicable diseases.
  • Training
In 2002, the Coalition of Media Health Professionals produced a guide to reporting on HIV for Kenyan journalists in an effort to boost journalists’ sensitivity on the subject. But experts say there is a need for specific training for journalists who write about HIV. One such  training, sponsored by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), was recently held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Tom Japanni, a senior BBC producer and trainer for the two-day workshop, noted that journalists were well placed to simplify the medical terminologies and disseminate them to the society.
“We are advantaged to be able to interpret health-related research findings, parliamentary bills and other related instruments, even in our local languages,” he said. “That is all the more reason journalists should be well equipped to deliver the correct information to the society. You must be informed for you to inform others.” “There are people in Kenya who still do not understand HIV beyond transmission, prevention and treatment,” Helen Barsosio, a Kenyan-based reproductive health researcher and the technical advisor on HIV programs for the NGO HOPE worldwide, told IRIN/PlusNews. “This kind of training is ideal for journalists to enable them to understand the correct language to use while reporting and to identify the stories within the HIV main story.”
  • Having an effect
“We train the journalist on the art of interview, among other areas,” said Anne Mikia, a radio specialist and trainer at Internews, which supports local media around the world. “Interviewing a person living with HIV needs a lot of skill, lest you offend the interviewee.” Although Mikia says it is difficult to measure the impact of their trainings, she noted that stigmatizing language and pictures were on the decline in most major media houses. “The trainings… go for only one week, and that is not sufficient for a journalist to acquire absolute effective skills on HIV reporting,” she added, noting that journalists need to use their own initiative to develop the skills to report on HIV. A local network of HIV-positive journalists is also playing a role in improving reporting on HIV in the media. “We realized that journalists rarely speak about themselves but report only what others have said or done.
As journalists living with HIV, we can easily address HIV issues because we relate with them,” said Elvis Bassudde, chairman of the East Africa chapter of Journalists Living with HIV/AIDS. “A journalist living with HIV and who sits in an editorial committee can [more] easily campaign for a space for an HIV story than one who is not.” lm/kr/rz source

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