Trump Has Made It Very Clear That He Cares Nothing About People Living With HIV Or AIDS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)

The first hints of an uncertain future for the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS came last year, when Donald Trump’s presidential campaign refused to meet with advocates for people living with HIV, said Scott Schoettes, a member of the council since 2014.

That unease was magnified on Inauguration Day in January, when an official White House website for the Office of National AIDS Policy vanished, Schoettes said.

“I started to think, was it going to be useful or wise or would it be possible to work with this administration?” Schoettes told The Washington Post. “Still, I made a decision to stick it out and see what we could do.”

Less than six months later, Schoettes said those initial reservations had given way to full-blown frustration over a lack of dialogue with or caring from Trump administration officials about issues relating to HIV or AIDS.

Last Tuesday, he and five others announced they were quitting Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, also known as PACHA. According to Schoettes, the last straw – or “more like a two-by-four than a straw” – had come in May, after the Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, which he said would have “devastating” effects on those living with HIV.

“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and – most concerning – pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease,” Schoettes wrote in a blistering guest column for Newsweek announcing the resignations.

The column also pointed out that Trump has still not appointed anyone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, which former president Barack Obama had done 36 days after his own inauguration.

“Within 18 months, that new director and his staff crafted the first comprehensive U.S. HIV/AIDS strategy. By contrast, President Trump appears to have no plan at all,” Schoettes wrote. “Public health is not a partisan issue … If the President is not going to engage on the subject of HIV/AIDS, he should at least continue policies that support people living with and at higher risk for HIV and have begun to curtail the epidemic.”

The column was co-signed by the five other members of the council who had resigned, including Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Grissel Granados and Michelle Ogle. As of Monday morning, their bios remained on PACHA’s government website.

1st Malaria Vaccine To Be Tested In 3 African Countries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

The World Health Organization announced on Monday that Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have been chosen to test the first malaria vaccine, which will be administered to hundreds of thousands of young children next year.

The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures, the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement.

The challenge is whether impoverished countries can deliver the required four doses of the vaccine for each child.

The injectable vaccine, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to protect children from the most deadly form of malaria in Africa. The $49 million for the first phase of the pilot is being funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

It will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether its protective effects shown so far in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. At least 120,000 children in each of the three countries will receive the vaccine, which has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs, but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said. The countries will deliver the vaccine through their existing vaccination programs.

Malaria remains one of the world’s most stubborn health challenges, infecting more than 200 million people every year and killing about half a million, most of them children in Africa. Bed netting and insecticides are the chief protection.

Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit by the disease, with about 90 percent of the world’s cases in 2015. Malaria spreads when a mosquito bites someone already infected, sucks up blood and parasites, and then bites another person.

A global effort to counter malaria has led to a 62 percent cut in deaths between 2000 and 2015, WHO said. But the UN agency has said in the past that such estimates are based mostly on modeling and that data is so bad for 31 countries in Africa — including those believed to have the worst outbreaks — that it couldn’t tell if cases have been rising or falling in the last 15 years.

WHO is hoping to wipe out malaria by 2040 despite increasing resistance problems to both drugs and insecticides used to kill mosquitoes.

“The slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection, shaping the genetic profiles of African populations,” Kathryn Maitland, professor of tropical pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College London, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in December. “Contrast this pace of change with our progress in the treatment of HIV, a disease a little more than three decades old.”

Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East also have malaria cases.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Where Marijuana Is Legal: Opioid Deaths And Alcohol Sales Are Way Down

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF HIGH TIMES MAGAZINE)

For many years, the biggest threat to marijuana legalization and fledgling legal cannabis businesses was the police.

Fears of DEA agents breaking down the front door at dawn, prosecutions in federal court with its accompanying mandatory minimums or warrantless visits from helicopter-riding police who merely cut down plant and leave—such things happen and are legal—was what kept people involved in cannabis up at night.

But now, with legalization sweeping the country and a vast majority of Americans in support of medical marijuana, the real enemy is revealing itself.

And as recent events in Arizona demonstrated, it’s Big Pharma.

In 2015, U.S.-based companies made up 40 percent of the global pharmaceutical trade, a market share worth $413 billion. These companies are well aware that cannabis is becoming an accepted treatment for chronic pain and many of the other lifelong afflictions now treated by highly profitable trademarked drugs—and some have proven willing and able to take steps to make sure marijuana stays out of the hands of law-abiding Americans in order to protect that enormous bottom line.

“Pharmaceuticals are going to run me down,” Dr. Gina Berman, medical director of the Giving Tree Wellness Center, a Phoenix, Arizona-based cannabis dispensary, told the Guardian. “We have a small business, and we can’t afford to fight Big Pharma.”

The most egregious case to date is Insys Therapeutics. Insys, is an Arizona-based drug manufacturer of pain drugs that contain fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that’s been fingered in many fatal opiate overdoses (including the death of Prince).

Arizona was the lone state where a marijuana legalization initiative failed at the ballot in November—and one of the leading donors to the anti-legalization campaign, with a $500,000 check, was Insys. (Another was Trump-supporting casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Here are the Vegas nightlife spots to boycott, forever.)

As the Intercept reported this fall, Insys executives openly recognized the threat to its market posed by marijuana. And in a devious twist, Insys identified marijuana as an existential threat and moved to keep it illegal, while developing a new drug based on synthetic THC.

On March 23, the DEA ruled that Insys’s new drug, called “Syndros,” could be marketed and sold as a Schedule II drug—meaning it could be prescribed to patients as soon as this fall.

So far, the FDA has approved Syndros for AIDS-related weight loss and vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy—two of the original applications for medical marijuana.

“It’s pretty absurd that federal law considers marijuana to have no medical value, but allows for the development of synthetic versions of the same substance,” Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored Arizona’s legalization measure, told the Guardian.

But what about Insys Therapeutics? It’s a company straight out of a Superman comic. 

In December, Justice Department prosecutors took the “unusual” step of charging six former Insys executives, including former CEO Michael L. Babich, with racketeering for its “aggressive” marketing of a fentanyl-based pain drug called Subsys, the New York Times reported. Prosecutors alleged that in order to sell more Subsys, the company arranged lavish dinners and other events for doctors who prescribed “lots of” the drug, and when that didn’t work, the company resorted to kickbacks. 

One Connecticut nurse pleaded guilty in 2015 to accepting $83,000 in kickbacks from the company. Families of dead patients, prescribed Subsys despite prescriptions for other drugs that are fatal when combined, and despite no cancer diagnosis—the drug is only FDA-approved from cancer-related pain—have also sued the company.

In a statement, Carmen Ortiz, the-then U.S. attorney for Massachusetts (before she and many others were summarily fired by Trump administration officials earlier this year), pinned part of the blame for the country’s opiate epidemic squarely on “corporate greed.”

In January, Insys founder John Kapoor stepped down as chairman, a role he took over from the indicted Babich in late 2015. Kapoor’s exit came after Insys’s sales plummeted 40 percent, as Forbes reported. (Wonder if the alleged kickbacks had anything to do with the inflated numbers?)

It’s all very ominous, but in a real way, marijuana activists should let Insys try—and then fail, spectacularly, as they are primed to do.

Insys’s proposed product, called Syndros, is a solution of “oral dronabinol.” Dronabinol is the generic name for another synthetic version of THC that’s been on the market for quite some time, called Marinol—and if you know anyone who has used Marinol, you know what they think of it. Namely, it kind of sucks.

For many patients, fake weed simply doesn’t work. As one patient prescribed Marinol told CBS News, “It might as well have been M&M’s.”

This is almost certainly because as synthetic THC only, Marinol and Syndros both lack cannabidiol, or CBD, as well as dozens of others cannabinoids. And as per the “entourage effect” theory, proffered by luminaries like CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and many more, your body and brain need all of cannabis’s component parts in order for its medical “magic” to work.

But let’s say Insys strikes out with Subsys. It won’t end there.

This is a company accused, with enough evidence to indict in a federal court, of being willing to see people die in order to sell more drugs. And it won’t end with this company.

Big Pharma is scared of weed—terrified—and as any animal scientist will tell you, a cornered and frightened animal is the most dangerous. And that applies to humans.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

China, U.N., Plans to End Poverty World Wide By 2030

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

China’s blueprint to end poverty

CHINA’S national plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was released at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday when Premier Li Keqiang chaired a roundtable on sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The plan consists of five parts, including China’s achievements and experience in implementing the Millennium Development Goals, and the challenges and opportunities, guiding principles, roadmap and detailed plans of implementing SDGs.

As the first national plan that specifies various domains and goal-oriented concrete measures, the plan expounds China’s development policy and its efforts to help other developing countries implement the goals.

The 2030 Agenda, endorsed and launched at the UN Summit for Sustainable Development last year, is a blueprint for eradicating poverty across the world in the years leading up to 2030.

Implementation of the agenda, including its 17 SDGs and 169 targets, is high on the agenda of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, which opened last week.

Leaders attending the G20 summit, in east China’s Hangzhou earlier this month, also pledged to actively implement the 2030 Agenda.

Pursuing sustainable development is the fundamental solution to all kinds of global problems, said Li, adding that accelerating implementation of the agenda is of great significance for now and in the long-term amid a weak global economic recovery and increasing difficulties and risks.

While deeming eradicating poverty and hunger as the top priority, he called for more efforts to promote robust, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.

In the past 15 years, China had made remarkable achievements in poverty reduction, health service and education, he said.

Over the period, China had lifted over 400 million people out of poverty, reducing the mortality of children under 5 by two-thirds and that of pregnant women by three-quarters.

As a responsible developing country, China is willing to participate in relevant international cooperation, continuously increase investment in South-South cooperation, and share development experience and opportunities, Li said.

In order to support a bigger UN role in the implementation of the agenda, China is pledging an additional US$100 million in annual aid to UN development agencies by 2020 on top of the amount in 2015, Li said.

He also announced that China’s donation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will reach US$18 million in the next three years.

The round table, hosted by the Chinese government, was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson and the heads of 16 international organizations.

They highlighted the important role China has played in carrying forward the 2030 Agenda within the G20 framework.

The international organizations present at the round table expressed their willingness to strengthen cooperation with China, popularize China’s development experience, and jointly address challenges so as to push forward the sustainable development of China and the rest of the world.

China’s First Lady Peng, G-20 First Ladies Bring Attention To HIV/AIDS Prevention

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Peace and harmony with Peng

PENG Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, invited the wives of leaders attending the G20 summit to visit the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou yesterday. She invited her guests to write the Chinese character “he,” meaning peace or harmony.

Peng also invited the wives to an anti-AIDS advocacy tour at Zhejiang University in the tourist city.

Peng, a World Health Organization goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, said such activities had been carried out in many Chinese universities to good effect and that the foreign guests’ attendance would have a positive influence.

Peng called on countries to work together in improving the level of HIV/AIDS prevention and the search for a cure.