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Cholera Outbreak In West, Central Africa 'One Of The Biggest Epidemics' In Region's History, Says UNICEF

According to UNICEF, a cholera outbreak in West and Central Africa “has claimed almost 2,500 lives … [w]ith more than 85,000 cases of cholera reported this year in 10 countries from Mali to Congo,” the Associated Press/CBS News reports (Freeman, 10/11). “‘The size and the scale of the outbreaks mean the region is facing one of the biggest epidemics in its history,’ UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told a news briefing in Geneva” on Tuesday, according to Reuters (Nebehay, 10/11). Mercado added that “above-average rainfall predicted for the coming weeks increases the likelihood that cholera will continue to spread,” the Associated Press/Washington Post notes (10/11).

Escalating Sexual Violence Amid Famine In Horn Of Africa Is 'Going Largely Ignored'

In this Guardian opinion piece, Lisa Shannon, founder of A Thousand Sisters, Run for Congo Women, and co-founder of Sister Somalia, examines how, in the context of famine, sexual violence in the Horn of Africa, and particularly in Somalia, “is being de-prioritized as primarily a psychosocial issue,” and asserts that grassroots international organizations offer a solution “outside the traditional big-aid model.”

Rwandan Government, UNFPA Step Up Campaign To End Obstetric Fistula

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Program and Engender Health have partnered with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health in “a campaign to treat and end obstetric fistula in women in Rwanda,” the New Times/AllAfrica.com reports. Through the campaign, “at least 50 women are expected to be treated by Issa Labou, a urologist from Senegal, assisted by a team of Rwandan physicians during an exercise to be held at Kibogora Hospital, Nyamasheke District, Western Province from 10-21 October 2011,” according to Anicet Nzabonimpa, the family planning and HIV integration coordinator in Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, the newspaper writes. “We commit to supporting government’s efforts to fully integrate services that are permanent for on-going, continuous and holistic care of obstetric fistula cases until we entirely end this preventable and treatable condition,’ she said,” according to the New Times (10/9).

CD4 Quick Test Helps Increase Number Of Patients Who Return For HIV Test Results

A new quick test to determine the CD4 levels of individuals who test positive for HIV “resulted in a substantial increase” in the percentage of people returning to a clinic get those results, according to a study conducted in Mozambique and published last week in the Lancet, the New York Times reports. “Before quick testing was available, 42 percent of infected patients returned to learn their CD4 count at a subsequent visit. After point-of-care testing began, 78 percent of infected patients were evaluated — that is, almost twice as many infected people took this important first step toward drug treatment,” the newspaper writes (Bakalar, 10/3).

Use Of Injectable Hormone Contraceptive May Double Risk Of Contracting, Transmitting HIV, Study Shows

“The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months, appears to double the risk the women will become infected with HIV,” according to a study involving 3,800 sero-discordant couples in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the New York Times reports. The study, led by researchers at the University of Washington and published Monday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, also found that when the contraceptive was “used by HIV-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception,” the newspaper writes. In addition, the study “found that oral contraceptives appeared to increase risk of HIV infection and transmission, but the number of pill users in the study was too small to be considered statistically significant, the authors said,” according to the New York Times.

Abortions In Africa Increased During 'Global Gag Rule,' Stanford University Study Shows

“In the first study to examine” the effects of a U.S. policy prohibiting foreign aid from going to any organization that performs abortions or provides information about or referral for the procedure as a method of family planning (often called the “Global Gag Rule” or “Mexico City Policy”), Stanford researchers Eran Bendavid and Grant Miller found that “the number of abortions increased in African countries where U.S. support for NGOs was cut the most,” according to a Stanford University news release (Gorlick, 9/28).

Strides Being Made Against Trypanosomiasis

Rachel ter Horst, medical advocacy adviser at Medecins Sans Frontieres, describes findings presented at the recent 31st biennial International Scientific Council for Trypanosomiasis Research and Control in Bamako, Mali, in this “BMJ Group Blogs” post. Noting that the annual reported incidence of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is decreasing but still…

Microbicide Trials Network Stops Tenofovir Arm Of Study After Findings Show Drug Less Effective Than Anticipated

“The Microbicide Trials Network (MTN), which is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, [on Wednesday] announced that it decided to stop one arm of a study involving more than 5,000 women in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Uganda” after “an interim review of the ongoing trial by an independent monitoring board … found that the drug tenofovir when used as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) had less effect in protecting women than anticipated,” Science Magazine’s “Science Insider” blog reports. “Although the board did not offer any specifics on how many women became infected on the drug versus placebo, they said continuing with the tenofovir arm was ‘futile’ as it would not yield meaningful results,” the blog writes.

African Leaders Showing 'Clear Commitment' To Fighting Malaria

“The focused attention that malaria has received by African governments and international organizations has had a major impact, with the rates of mortality coming down dramatically in the continent,” and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) has helped lead this campaign, an IPP Media editorial states. However, “[a]s long as malaria continues to be Africa’s leading killer, little progress can be recorded in other endeavors, because of its insidious effect,” the editorial writes, noting that two percent of Africa’s GDP is lost annually because of the disease.