Weekly Roundup – 7/26/14: Mind the Gap
There’s a frustrating gap between countries that pass archaic laws that keep their gay citizens from seeking health care, even while so many organizations in those countries and worldwide are developing sophisticated interventions to fight HIV.
This gap was highlighted on a global stage at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, which concluded yesterday.
Africa accounted for about 71 percent of the world’s deaths related to HIV/AIDS in 2011. About 3.4 million people who have HIV live in Nigeria. Yet that country passed a law in January which, among other things, prohibits the “aiding and abetting” of homosexuality. Uganda, where about 1.4 million people are living with HIV, passed a law in February which imposed a life sentence for “aggravated homosexuality,” otherwise known as “repeat offenders.” (Read Adam Lewis’ take on how the private sector can get involved.)
In fact, more than 80 countries have laws against sex by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. These laws make it difficult for homosexuals to seek medical care and make public awareness campaigns practically impossible.
Meanwhile, and in stark contrast to such governance, this year’s AIDS conference included all sorts of groups that are building businesses, collaborating, raising money, shaping markets and otherwise fighting HIV.
For instance, Oil Search Managing Director Peter Botton attended the conference and urged more corporations to get involved: “Part of being here is trying to mobilize the corporate sector and look at successful public-private partnerships to help deliver services to the people,” he told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific.
Conference participants learned of a new pill that could prevent HIV transmission. Dr. Luiz Loures, deputy director of UNAIDS, said, “We now know that treatment, in addition to saving lives, may become a major tool in terms of prevent(ing) the expansion” of AIDS.
There was also news of an anti-cancer drug that can make HIV detectable in blood by standard methods, opening the possibilities of vaccines.
And UNITAID announced, “Our new report shows how UNITAID has expanded the type of interventions it supports – moving more towards tailored interventions with very specific market effects as their goal, including those focused on innovation, market entry, market introduction and intellectual property issues.”
All of this is exciting news, but is tempered by the reality that in too much of the world, it’s a crime to be a member of the LGBT community. As long as that’s the case, efforts at prevention and treatment will, unfortunately, be limited.
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Speaking of gaps, we were reminded of the one that exists between the developed and developing worlds this week when the mayor of a small town in the United States drew reams of press after he began a 273-mile walk to Washington, D.C., to protest the closure of the small hospital that serves his hometown of Belhaven, N.C.
If the mayor completes his walk as scheduled on July 28, he will have averaged about 19 miles a day. Pretty impressive stuff for a middle-aged man. And we respect his mission. He’s trying to improve health care in his town by arguing in favor of Medicaid expansion.
But we can only imagine the smirks that would greet such news in the developing world, where about a billion women and children start each day walking an average 3.5 miles to get clean water for their families. For more math fun, consider that many families require more than one daily trip to the water source; a jerry can of water weighs more than 40 pounds; and exactly zero members of the press are taking photos and asking questions of these women and children hauling water every single day of their lives.
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And yet another gap: The one that exists between short-term and long-term business decisions.
NextBillion Health Care is populated with story after story about local, national and multinational businesses that recognize how their firm’s health is inextricably linked to global health.
Then there’s Philip Morris, the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer, which basically went to war with Uruguay over that country’s anti-smoking campaign.
Tobacco kills about 6 million people a year and could cause up to 1 billion deaths in the 21st century, and four out of five of those deaths will occur in developing nations. Uruguay was making some progress in this uphill battle, serving as a model for other countries trying to limit the enormous health and economic costs associated with smoking.
Enter Philip Morris, which is suing Uruguay for $25 million over the country’s 2009 law which says 80 percent of cigarette packs have to be covered by health warnings. The company is simultaneously arguing that the warnings on the packages don’t prevent people from smoking, while spending millions to remove those warnings.
While the numbers irrefutably show that cigarettes kill and are an economic siphon, the odds favor Philip Morris in this battle; it’s annual sales are higher than Uruguay’s $56 billion GDP.
At NBHC, we’ll continue to write about companies and individuals putting their talents to work to improve global health. Meanwhile, other companies will unapologetically continue to throw their resources in the exact opposite direction.