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Nearly Half Of Pregnant Women In Southern China’s Poor Areas Do Not Get Tested For Syphilis, Study Shows

“Nearly half of pregnant women do not get tested for syphilis in poor areas of southern China where the sexually transmitted disease has seen a resurgence, researchers said Wednesday” in a study published in the WHO’s November 2011 Bulletin, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Pregnant women with syphilis can miscarry, have stillbirths or their infants can have congenital defects, the news service notes. According to the AP, the study “found that more than 40 percent of about 125,000 mothers-to-be in Guangdong province were not tested for syphilis in 2008, mostly due to a lack of health facilities in rural areas.” The study noted that “several provincial and national programs to improve testing have been put in place” since the study was conducted, the AP writes (Wong, 11/1).

Synthetic Artemisinin Discovery Could Make Malaria Treatments More Affordable, Accessible

“Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the biotech start-up Amyris [have] developed a process to manufacture artemisinin, a crucial ingredient in first-line malaria drugs that until now had to be extracted from a natural crop called sweet wormwood,” PBS NewsHour reports. “The new semi-synthetic artemisinin … successfully entered the production phase through a public-private partnership with the drug company Sanofi-Aventis earlier this year” and “will hit the market beginning in 2012,” according to NewsHour. Olusoji Adeyi, who runs the affordable malaria medication program at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said the new formulation of artemisinin will help make better quality malaria treatments more affordable and increase access, NewsHour reports (Miller, 10/31).

E.U., UNICEF Launch $430M Fund In Zimbabwe To Provide Medical Care To Children, Pregnant Women

“A $430 million fund which will give Zimbabwean children and pregnant women free medical care at public hospitals was launched Monday with the help of the E.U. and UNICEF,” Agence France-Press reports. “The Zimbabwe health care system which has collapsed from years of economic crisis requires $436 million over the next five years to improve capacity, particularly in the delivery of maternal care, according to UNICEF,” AFP notes.

African Health Scientists Need More Support, Funding To Address Shifting Priorities, Expert Says

With disease burden shifting from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) over the coming years, “African health scientists need more funding and support to overcome the barriers and deal with a changing health situation on the continent,” Olive Shisana, chief executive officer of the South African Human Sciences Research Council, said during a keynote address at last week’s World Health Summit in Berlin, Germany, SciDev.Net reports. “Many of these diseases can be prevented by putting scientific research and health technologies to work, said Shisana, adding that this ‘epidemiological transition is an opportunity for us to build capacity and to collaborate to tackle these diseases together for the benefit of the globe,'” the news service writes.

NTDs Among America’s Poor Populations Must Be Addressed

“[T]he number of Americans living in poverty is at an all-time high, … with close to 50 million people living below the poverty line,” Peter Hotez, founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, writes in an Austin-American Statesman opinion piece, adding, “We desperately need a national dialogue about the unique afflictions of the bottom 50 million, paying particular attention to their neglected tropical diseases [NTDs], which represent important stealth reasons trapping them in a vicious cycle of poverty” (10/26).

Advocates Call For Supplementary Budget To Address Shortage Of Health Workers, Midwives In Uganda

“The shortage of health workers in Uganda is a ‘crisis,’ says the Minister of Health, and activists say expectant mothers are bearing the brunt of the country’s staffing deficiency,” IRIN reports. “Just 56 percent of Uganda’s available health positions are filled,” the news service writes, adding, “A parliamentary committee’s recent attempt to redirect 75 billion Ugandan shillings — about US$27.5 million — out of a national budget of more than 10 trillion shillings ($3.6 billion) towards hiring enough health workers was rebuffed in September.”

International Community Must Help Women Fight HIV/AIDS In Swaziland

Women living with HIV in Swaziland “fight a tireless tripartite battle against HIV, the stigma it places on them, and their inferior status in Africa’s last absolute monarchy,” freelance journalist Gary Nunn writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” Nunn recounts the story of Siphiwe Hlophe, who founded Swaziland for Positive Living (Swapol) in 2001, and writes, “Women operate at grassroots level in tackling HIV because they’re rarely trusted with real responsibility. But they are increasingly making their voices heard.”

GAVI Alliance Brings Pneumococcal Vaccine To Nicaragua

In this post in PBS NewsHour’s blog “The Rundown,” senior correspondent Ray Suarez reports on his time in Nicaragua with the NewsHour’s global health unit for the national rollout of a pneumococcal pneumonia immunization campaign. The vaccine cost $100 per dose when it came to market in the last several years, Suarez notes, writing, “At that price, Nicaragua certainly couldn’t pay to vaccinate all its children. The GAVI Alliance, formed as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, worked to find a way to close that yawning gap between great danger to children and a life-saving medicine, between deep poverty in Nicaragua and Pfizer’s high costs.”

South Sudan, UNFPA Program Works To Deploy More Midwives Throughout Country

The Ministry of Health of South Sudan and UNFPA, working through the Capacity Placement of International United Nations Volunteer Midwives Project, has deployed 18 midwives throughout South Sudan since December 2010, when the program began, the Sudan Tribune reports. South Sudan, where 2,054 per 100,000 women die during labor, according to figures from the health ministry, has fewer than 100 midwives for a population of more than eight million people, Minister of Health Michael Milli Hussein said, the newspaper notes. Midwives and others involved in the project are meeting in Juba this week to discuss progress and goals, the Tribune writes (10/25).

Cholera Epidemic Hits Western, Central Africa

“Western and central Africa are facing one of the biggest cholera epidemics in their history, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said last month, in reporting that more than 85,000 cases of cholera have been registered since the beginning of the year, with nearly 2,500 deaths,” according to Le Monde/Guardian. The newspaper writes, “UNICEF has identified three main cholera epidemic outbreaks in the Lake Chad basin, the West Congo basin and Lake Tanganyika,” and “[f]ive countries — Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (RDC) and Chad — account for 90 percent of the reported cases and fatalities.”