AIDS researchers and health leaders look to 2030 targets and Yemen’s crisis forces relief groups to scrap a cholera immunization plan. This week in development.
Relief operations in Yemen have been paralyzed by a conflict in which warring parties ignore the laws of war and threaten to politicize any effort to provide lifesaving assistance in a country where 80 percent of children require humanitarian aid. The leaders of UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization described Yemen as suffering from “the world’s worst cholera outbreak in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.” The International Committee of the Red Cross expects Yemen will see 600,000 cholera cases by the end of 2017. Earlier this month a plan to deliver 1 million doses of vaccine to Yemen was scrapped because of concerns it would be ineffective — and possibly even harmful — at a time when medical treatment is held hostage by political conflict. “Those worries boil down to a combination of epidemiological reality, overwhelming logistical constraints, and a volatile political situation in which Yemen is effectively controlled by two rival government administrations,” Elizabeth Dickinson reported for Devex. In lieu of the vaccination campaign, international efforts will now focus on “containment,” according to the WHO, but the only way to stop this and future epidemics is with a political resolution that reasserts humanitarian law, said ICRC President Peter Maurer. “It is imperative that parties to the conflict stop the attacks on hospitals, and electricity and water plants. Otherwise, more tragedy will ensue.”
AIDS researchers and leaders met in Paris over the weekend to track progress toward ending the epidemic. The International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science convened for the first time since 2003. At that time, fewer than 2 million people were receiving treatment for HIV. Today that number is 19.5 million, according to UNAIDS. Much of the discussion focused on a clear division that has emerged in the fight to get 30 million people on treatment by 2030, Andrew Green reported for Devex. On one hand, international efforts have achieved remarkable success and are on track to meet that goal. On the other hand, expanding treatment to populations that currently lack it will be much more difficult, because they tend to be socially and politically marginalized and difficult to reach. “Those split results helped center discussions at this week’s IAS meeting around how to make it easier for patients to access and stay on treatment — key improvements that could help in reaching the most vulnerable,” Green wrote. Among the most exciting innovations on the horizon is an injectible form of HIV treatment, which could eventually become a self-administered injectable treatment. Such a treatment would require fewer doses, farther apart and could help reduce the burden of consistent antiretroviral adherence.
Europe’s highest court issued a ruling on Wednesday that could result in the deportation of hundreds of migrants. The European Court of Justice upheld a policy known as the “Dublin regulation,” which requires migrants to seek asylum in the first country they reach. The decision means that hundreds of refugees could be deported from Austria and Slovenia back to Croatia, the first country they entered in the European Union. When Germany suspended the Dublin regulation and adopted an open-door policy for Syrian refugees, other EU countries saw large numbers of migrants cross through their borders, many of them seeking asylum. Two families who sought asylum in Austria and Slovenia took their case to court when those countries denied their asylum requests and argued that their visas should have been processed in Croatia, the EU country they first entered. The court agreed with that argument.