Malawi

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

This blog post is a web-formatted version of the Global Health Impact newsletter: Stronger Health Systems Stop TB and Save Lives (December 2015). (View or share the email version here.) We welcome your feedback and questions in the comments or email us. On social media, use hashtag and tag .  Subscribe

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman, Kenya.}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman, Kenya.

On the eve of the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), Rachel Hassinger, editor of MSH’s Global Health Impact Blog, spoke with Dr. Scott Kellerman, global technical lead on HIV & AIDS, to discuss his latest research on prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and pediatric HIV & AIDS. Kellerman and colleagues will be attending AIDS 2014, July 20-25, in Melbourne, Australia. (Read more about the conference.)

RH: What is the state of HIV & AIDS globally?

[Scott Kellerman]Scott KellermanSK: We are at the threshold of a sea change. In the beginning, our HIV prevention tool box was sparse. We could offer extended counseling and condoms, and impart information, but not much else. Behavioral change was the cornerstone of tackling the epidemic. It worked sometimes, but, not consistently.

Now biomedical advances are propelling treatment as prevention—even what I call “treatment IS prevention”.

 {Photo credit: MSH staff}A community health worker uses a mobile phone for health information while caring for a sick child in Salima, Malawi.Photo credit: MSH staff

Natalie Campbell and Elizabeth McLean of MSH and colleagues co-authored a new journal article, "Taking knowledge for health the extra mile: participatory evaluation of a mobile phone intervention for community health workers in Malawi," in the latest issue of Global Health: Science and Practice.

This post originally appeared on the K4Health blog.

{Photo credit: Reavis/MSH, Malawi}Photo credit: Reavis/MSH, Malawi

The World Health Organization (WHO) made waves at the International AIDS Society conference in Kuala Lumpur when it issued revised guidelines for HIV treatment. The new guidelines—WHO’s first major update since 2010—recommend an earlier start to treatment, from a CD4 threshold of 350 cells/mm3 to 500 cells/mm3. While most patients don’t show symptoms of disease at these higher CD4 counts (a measure of immune system strength), the new guidelines responded to evidence that an earlier start improves long-term clinical outcomes and that ARV treatment dramatically reduces patients’ likelihood of transmitting the virus to sexual partners.

This week’s Lancet returns the spotlight to Option B+, an innovative strategy for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV which was first developed in Malawi with technical assistance from MSH. Four letters respond to the concern that international organizations have too quickly endorsed the Option B+ approach of providing lifelong triple antiretroviral therapy (ART), irrespective of CD4 count, to pregnant women with HIV in high-burden countries.

MSH experts Scott Kellerman, Jonathan Jay and Jonathan Quick argue that “a strong case exists for expanding research on Option B+, but not for impeding countries that pursue it on the basis of available evidence and programmatic experience:”

Malawi mother and children {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

I got a call from the resident doctor to come to exam room 6. As soon as I entered the room, I prepared myself. The little girl, 7- or maybe 8-years-old, didn't look well; she was “floppy,” combative, and not entirely aware of where she was or what we were doing to her. She was HIV-positive, and my colleague needed to get an IV line in her arm to test the latest in experimental treatments for kids with HIV– and needed the four of us interns to help hold her still.

It was 1993 during my residency in pediatrics in Cleveland, Ohio. We were at one of the best children’s hospitals in the world; it didn’t matter. The young girl died a few months later.

With the advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART) a few years later, the whole world changed. The world of HIV medicine blossomed; new drugs and drug combinations literally exploded with amazing effect. HIV-positive mothers could give birth to HIV-negative babies, and HIV-positive children and their moms could get treatment.

K4Health Knowledge Management/Health Systems Strengthening Conceptual Framework. {Image credit: MSH.}Image credit: MSH.

Cross-posted from the K4Health blog

No matter which health system building block you are trying to improve, you need specific data, information, and knowledge to inform your decision-making process—this is where good knowledge management comes in handy.

The Intersection of Knowledge Management and Health Systems Strengthening: Implications from the Malawi Knowledge for Health Demonstration Project” provides an interesting case study of the connection between improved knowledge management and health systems strengthening.

Uganda. {Photo credit: Paydos/MSH.}Photo credit: Paydos/MSH.

The Ugandan government launched a new prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) strategy on September 12.

Uganda will transition from an approach based on the World Health Organization's (WHO) Option A --- which is contingent on an HIV-positive pregnant woman’s CD4 count --- to WHO's newest PMTCT strategy, Option B+.

Option B+ — whereby HIV-positive pregnant women receive lifelong treatment, regardless of their CD4 levels — originated in 2010 when the Malawian government decided to combine antiretroviral therapy (ART) with PMTCT in response to the challenges of providing reliable CD4 testing in remote settings.

The WHO updated its PMTCT guidelines with Option B+ in April of this year.

Frieda Komba, a licensed drug dispenser in Tanzania. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Each year over 10 million men, women, and children in developing countries die as a result of our collective failure to deliver available safe, affordable, and proven prevention and treatment. A recent analysis of innovations in products and practices for global health, from the Hepatitis B vaccine to use of skilled birth attendants, revealed virtually none of these life-saving interventions reaches much more than half their target population—even after as many as 28 years of availability. This reflects a vast gap between knowledge and action in global health.

Successful Health Systems Innovations

Low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) benefit from continued innovations in health products and health practices, such as use of misoprostol to prevent post-partum hemorrhage, and technologies such as internet-based mHealth applications to protect the poor from catastrophic health expenditures.  To ensure such innovations achieve large-scale, widespread coverage, they must be accompanied by much more effective health systems innovations.

President William Clinton at Closing Session of AIDS 2012. {Photo credit: © IAS/Steve Shapiro - Commercialimage.net.}Photo credit: © IAS/Steve Shapiro - Commercialimage.net.

It's been nearly two weeks since former President William J. Clinton closed the last session of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) and delegates returned home.

This year's conference featured commitment and calls for an AIDS-free generation, a growing interest in Option B+, and new research towards a cure.  Here are some reflections from what we learned at AIDS 2012, where we truly started "turning the tide together".

Clinton calls for a blueprint toward an AIDS-free generation

Secretary Hilary Rodham Clinton announced significant funding towards preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, South Africa’s plan for voluntary medical male circumcision, and money for “implementation research,” civil society, and country-led plans. Sec. Clinton also called on Ambassador Eric Goosby to provide a blueprint for achieving an AIDS-free generation during her plenary address. Numerous other stakeholders echoed her commitment. But, if we really want to achieve an AIDS-free generation, the $7 billion funding gap that stands between where we are now, and where we should be, will need to be erased

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