AHF, which lost two HIV/AIDS physicians in Africa to Ebola in 2014, commended the World Health Organization for swiftly declaring a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ on the Zika virus and urged a much more aggressive global response than on Ebola.
WHO’s response on Ebola was universally deemed to be woefully inadequate.
WASHINGTON (February 2, 2016), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization that provides HIV care, treatment and testing services to over 588,000 individuals in 35 countries, today commended the World Health Organization (WHO), for swiftly declaring a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ on Zika virus. WHO officially announced the Declaration on Monday over concerns on an explosion of Zika virus infections mainly found in the Americas, and in particular, Zika’s possible association with clusters of microcephaly and neurologic disorders, in accordance with International Health Regulations, (IHR 2005).
AHF, which lost two of its HIV/AIDS physicians in Africa to Ebola in 2014 (in Sierra Leone and Liberia), also urged WHO and other global health organizations to mount a much more aggressive and coordinated response than was mounted on Ebola, which ravaged Africa starting in 2014. The WHO’s response on the Ebola outbreak in Africa was universally deemed to be woefully inadequate.
The Zika epidemic is rapidly growing and those most at risk, due to consequences on newborns, are pregnant women.
Dr. Jorge Saavedra, a Mexican Public Health specialist and current Global Public Health Ambassador for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, declared its satisfaction and appreciation to the Pan American Health Organization and WHO for the timely declaration of Public Health Emergency of International Concern, unlike what happened with the delayed declaration of emergency in the case of the Ebola epidemic. However, Saavedra believes that the world could be better prepared to respond more promptly to such situations if both the United Nations and WHO should carefully read and put into effect the ten (10) recommendations issued by the Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola, published in the Lancet on November 23, 2015.
In the case of Latin America, Dr. Saavedra wonders, “How could these countries control the Aedes aegypti mosquito, if they already have several years trying unsuccessfully to control it for cases of Dengue and Chikungunya and they have failed? How can they control Zika infections if the mosquito is exactly the same one? The response to Zika needs to come from a standpoint of international technical cooperation and financial aid in order to effectively control the spread of this potentially devastating virus.”
Finally, Michael Weinstein, President of AHF called upon the governments of all countries affected by Zika to be open and transparent in reporting new cases, not to restrict the flow of information due political or economic considerations, and to invite and involve civil society organizations to collaborate in the fight against this epidemic.
Right now 27 countries and territories in the Americas have reported domestically transmitted Zika cases, including two US territories: Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. According to the CDC, some imported Zika infections have been reported in continental USA. In addition to the US, AHF has operations and free HIV/AIDS treatment clinics in six countries affected by the Zika: Brazil, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico and Paraguay.
Latin American countries not affected until now are: Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Belize and Cuba. Very likely Belize and Peru will be affected very soon.
In addition, on January 25th, the New York Times reported on two cases of Zika than may have been sexually transmitted.
For a Spanish version of this article, click here.