Global Health News Last Week

SECTION NEWS

The 2011 IH Section award winners have been announced!

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Henry Mosley
  • Mid-Career Award: Neil Arya
  • Service to Section Award: Donna Barry
  • Gordon Wyon Award: John Bryant

Congratulations to this year’s awardees!  They will be honored at the section social on Monday night of this year’s Annual Meeting, so don’t miss it!


July 11 was World Population Day.  In honor of WPD this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a greater focus on providing improved health to mothers and children.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • Last week, a United States federal appeals court overturned  a George W. Bush-era “anti-prostitution pledge” that required all organizations that receive US funds to fight HIV and AIDS to adopt a formal position condemning prostitution and trafficking.
  • Uganda’s legislative body has passed a bill that will criminalize  the intentional spread of HIV/AIDS.
  • An in-depth report by Gregg  Carlstrom for Al Jazeera examines the state of the new Republic  of South Sudan’s health systems. Future plans appear to be in the right direction, but the present health situation is dire for the newly established
    country.
  • U.S. officials are defending  the CIA’s use of a vaccination program in the hunt for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden amid concerns from international aid groups that the operation  could compromise future public health efforts in Pakistan. The CIA orchestrated a hepatitis vaccination program in the city of Abbottabad in a bid to collect DNA evidence to help identify the location of bin Laden family members.
  • A growing reluctance from donor countries to provide funds to help ever-wealthier China battle HIV/AIDS will adversely affect efforts against the disease’s spread, says Michel Sidibe, head of UNAIDS.

PROGRAMS

  • The Medicines Patent Pool, established by UNITAID to share drug patents, has just received its first contribution from Gilead Sciences. This will allow Indian generics companies to make cheap copies of some of the best HIV/AIDS drugs.

RESEARCH

  • A new study has shown that ARVs taken by women with HIV/AIDS may have an effect on fertility.
  • The United Nations praised a study showing that the use of ARVs by people with HIV can reduce chance of infection between partners by 73%.
  • Mosquitoes are growing increasingly resistant to pyrethroids, the only insecticides approved by the WHO for use on bednets.
  • HIV/AIDS drugs can be used to provide additional protection against infection as well as for treatment of those already affect by the disease, according to results of two studies conducted in Africa.
  • Researchers in Tanzania are developing a device that uses the scent of malodorous human socks to attract mosquitoes in the wild, then poisons them. Donations of $775,000 announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada are intended to reduce the global infection rate of malaria by producing an affordable outdoor trap ranging in cost from between $4 and $27.
  • A new study says that an inexpensive de-worming pill can help people become deadly to malaria-carrying mosquitoes, but for the pill to work, nearly everyone in a community would have to take the pill at the same time — and repeat monthly. The drug reduces insect lifespan, helping against malaria because only the older mosquitoes can transmit it.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • The World Health Organization says the world is better prepared for the next influenza pandemic. The centerpiece of the plan is to strengthen the capacity of manufacturers to provide enough vaccines to immunize the world’s population against influenza.
  • The WHO has certified that Uganda has successfully eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus.
  • According to a report published in March 2011 by the United Nations Environment Programme, only two in every five people in the Southern Africa have access to safe water for drinking and household use. Three quarters of those lacking access, live in rural areas and the majority of these are women and children.
  • The CDC has expressed concern over the recently discovered strain of gonorrhea in Japan that is resistant to all present antibiotic treatments.
  • Drug manufacturers, government representatives and pharmacists from six countries in East Africa have estimated that as much as 30 percent of all drugs on the market are either of very poor quality or counterfeit medicines.
  • A lack of financial support and political will are contributing to the upsurge of measles in 33 countries. In an video interview, Andrea Gay at Measles Initiative, explains the different reasons for measles outbreaks in the developing and developed countries.
  • The number of children facing death by starvation in Somalia has almost doubled since March and the country’s child malnutrition rate is now the highest in the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross warns. Aid agencies have struggled to reach Somalis affected by drought due to security concerns across the conflict-ravaged country.

Global Health News Last Week

POLICY

  • Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) introduced the Water for the World Act of 2011, a bill in the Senate which will make providing safe and clean drinking water around the world a priority for US foreign aid.
  • More than 60 world nutrition experts met at WHO headquarters last week to revise guidelines and to identify solutions to tackle the growing problems of both malnutrition and obesity around the world.
  • Ministers of health and other high-level health officials from throughout the Americas called for a series of actions to reduce the toll of chronic noncommunicable diseases, in a declaration issued last week in Mexico City.
  • The Global Fund announced that former President of Botswana Festus Mogae and former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt have agreed to lead a high-level panel of experts that will conduct an independent and thorough review of the Global Fund’s financial safeguards.
  • UN agencies are concerned that reduced donor funding due to the recession, combined with free trade agreements, will reduce the availability of low-cost HIV medications in developing countries.
  • The United Nations General Assembly will convene a high-level meeting in September this year to discuss the financial burden caused by non-communicable diseases (NCD) on countries.

RESEARCH

  • A study done is Malawi by the World Bank attracted attention (and criticism) from Businessweek. Young women were given to stay in school and deter them from accepting money and gifts from “sugar daddies” in exchange for sex. The study found that HIV infection rates were 60% among schoolgirls who received cash compared to those who received nothing.
  • A recent review of malaria treatment clinical trial results, published in the Chochrane Library, shows that artesunate was more effective that quinine at treating severe malaria.
  • A personalized text messaging reminder service significantly boosted antiretroviral (ARV) adherence over a six-week period compared with a standard beeper reminder system, according to a study published in the March issue of AIDS Patient Care and STDs.
  • About 600 people gathered at the Global Health Metrics and Evaluation conference in Seattle to discuss issues surrounding the evaluation of effectiveness of health programs.

PROGRAMS

  • Global health blogger Alanna Shaikh discusses how micro-credit and the Green Revolution, two of international development’s biggest successes, are being re-evaluated.
  • The Nepalese government is planning launch a large vaccination campaign against elephantiasis in 40 high-risk districts.
  • Dubai’s Ministry of Health introduced Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine PCV13, a vaccine that protects young children from the worst effects of illnesses including pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis.
  • The National Influenza Center of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been designated as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, making China the first developing country to house such an institution.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • Europe is concerned by the growing incidence of drug-resistant TB, particularly in children.
  • The world continues to follow the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, including the unfolding situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The WHO has assured that there is no danger to individuals being exposed to radiation in nearby nations (e.g. China).
  • As if Haiti needed any more bad news, a study published in the Lancet says that the UN estimate of 400,000 cholera cases in Haiti this year is nearly half of what the real projection should be for the recovering nation. Meanwhile, health officials in Lagos have called on residents to observe high standards of personal and environmental hygiene and have designated emergency numbers to call in case of suspected cases; the Ghana Health Service has set up cholera centers in Accra to deal with the outbreak there; and the interim federal government of Somalia on Tuesday denied reports of an outbreak of cholera in the country, responding to an Associated Press story over the weekend that Somali doctors had reported that more than 20 people had died from the disease.
  • In the February 2011 issue of PLoS Neglected Tropical Disease Journal, contributing editor Serap Aksoy discussed the triumphs behind the control of human African trypanosomiasis, or African Sleeping Sickness.
  • Although women get diagnosed for tuberculosis (TB) later than men, treatment outcomes among women are better than men with higher TB treatment success rate and lower default (drop-out) rate in the female patients. The finding was announced at a meeting on TB and women in New Delhi, India.
  • While the total number of newly reported HIV positive people and AIDS patients are still low in Japan compared with other countries, the number of newly HIV-infected people in Japan has doubled in the past decade due to public complacency and lower awareness.

Mogadishu Blues: Tragic attack highlights Somalia’s struggle to reach the sick

Blog contributor: Jessica M. Keralis

On December 3, 22 people were killed while at a graduation ceremony for medical, engineering, and computer science students at Banadir University in Somalia.  The ceremony was the target of a suicide bomber.  Among the dead were were medical students, doctors, and three government ministers, including Dr. Qamar Aden Ali, Somalia’s Minister of Health.  The WHO has described Dr. Ali as a “tireless, energetic and influential advocate for health in Somalia who was determined to improve health standards and care for her fellow Somalis” and who worked closely with the World Health Organization to improve her country’s health system.

The attack is a devastating blow to both the small Somali medical community and the UN-supported government, which cannot even guarantee safety within the few square miles of Mogadishu it controls – less than three months ago, people were killed in an attack against the African Union mission (AMISOM) in the capitol.  These events serve as a painful reminder that the violence and political instability in Somalia oppress its people and deprive them of their basic needs for food, hygiene, and health.  The Afgooye Corridor, a 20-km strip west of Mogadishu, saw a population of 520,000 refugees uproot and move earlier this year.  The displaced are at risk for cholera from poor hygiene and sanitation.  Vaccination campaigns are extremely difficult, and staff face constant dangers.  Medical equipment is not maintained.  Both the WHO and the African Union have re-affirmed their commitment to helping the citizens of Somalia, but it is not just the government itself that is being attacked: both the Minister of Education, Ahmed Abdulahi Waayeel, and the Minister of Higher Education, Ibrahim Hassan Addow, were also killed.  The bombing on Thursday was a calculated attack against the Somali education community.  How effectively can humanitarian aid be administered in a country that has had no effective government for almost 20 years?

Despite valiant efforts, aid missions to Somalia are hindered by limited availability of funds and, more importantly, the political crisis.  Until stability and peace can be brought to this country torn by civil war and violence, its people will continue to suffer.