The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Thursday hosted a panel discussion focusing on the policy implications of findings published by the Lancet in a special series on HIV/AIDS and men who have sex with men (MSM), the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Barton, 9/7). Chris Beyrer, a professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a contributor to the Lancet series, explained two factors are affecting the expansion of the HIV epidemic among MSM worldwide, according to Inter Press Service. First, HIV “is far more efficiently transmitted through the gut, hence leading to a far higher transmission probability in anal sex, for either a man or a woman — around 18 times more likely than through vaginal transmission,” the news service writes. Second, “because gay men can switch sexual roles in a way that is impossible among heterosexual couples — acting as both the acquisition and transmission partner — the efficiency of transmission among MSM networks appears to be far higher than previously understood,” IPS adds, noting, “These two factors, the new research suggests, account for a full 98 percent of the difference between HIV epidemics among MSM and heterosexual populations.”
Scientific American examines how strains of cephalosporin-resistant gonnorhea have “been emerging in Japan, and moving east and west from there, for at least a decade.” The magazine writes, “Rapid international travel allowed the resistance mutation to hopscotch the globe,” noting antibiotic-resistant strains that have been identified in Sweden, England, Norway, the Philippines, Spain, and France. “‘We can’t go back to older antibiotics,’ says Peter Leone, who is board chair of the National Coalition of STD Directors and medical director of North Carolina’s STD prevention program. ‘Once resistance emerges in gonorrhea, it is there for good. Cephalosporins are all we have left,’” he added, according to Scientific American. The magazine writes that efforts “to educate physicians and patients, to track resistant strains and to develop new treatments … must be carefully targeted and well coordinated with one another,” and concludes, “If not, truly untreatable gonorrhea, and its expensive, destructive consequences, could be the worldwide result” (McKenna, 5/4).
The WHO has disputed a study published last week in the Lancet “that claims nearly twice as many people are dying of malaria than current estimates,” VOA News reports. The WHO “says both its estimates of malaria deaths and those of the Lancet study are statistically the same for all groups in all regions,” with one exception, VOA writes, noting, “WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl says there’s a notable statistical difference in regard to children over five and adults in Africa.”
“Early diagnosis is the key to reducing the nearly eight million deaths caused by cancer across the globe annually, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said” on Saturday to mark World Cancer Day, “stressing the importance of screening programs for healthy people to detect the disease promptly for easier treatment,” the U.N. News Centre reports (2/3). The theme of this year’s day, which is recognized annually on February 4, was “Together It Is Possible,” “reinforcing that it is only by every person, organization, and government individually doing their part that the world will be able to reduce premature deaths from cancer and other non-communicable diseases,” according to a press release from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (2/4). The WHO “reminded the world that cancer is responsible for close to 13 percent of deaths globally, accounting for 7.6 million deaths in 2008,” according to the U.N. News Centre (2/3).
“Health officials in southern China are proposing new legislation to require real-name registration for HIV testing, a move aimed at lowering infection rates that has sparked controversy over personal privacy,” the Wall Street Journal’s “China Real Time Report” blog reports. It notes that China’s Xinhua News Agency recently reported that the legislation, proposed in China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, also would mandate people testing positive for HIV must inform their spouses and partners.
CNN examines nodding disease, a seizure disorder that has affected at least 3,000 children in Northern Uganda, as well as children in Liberia, Sudan, and Tanzania. Though the disease has no known cause or cure, “there are clues,” the news service notes, writing, “WHO officials say 93 percent of cases are found in areas also with the parasitic worm Onchocerca Volvulus, which causes river blindness and is carried by the Black Fly. And many cases show a deficiency in Vitamin B6. Nutrition also seems to play an important role.”
“About 900,000 cases of active tuberculosis (TB) were discovered and treated [in China] in 2011, including 423,000 infectious cases, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced Monday at a press conference,” Xinhua reports. “Xiao Donglou, a health inspector from the MOH, said at the press conference that China improved its ability to prevent and control TB last year, focusing on HIV/TB co-infections and cases of TB among the country’s migrant population,” noting “1,701 HIV/TB co-infections were reported last year, as well as 51,682 cases of TB among the migrant population,” the news agency writes.
PlusNews examines the challenges and concerns surrounding Zimbabwe’s plan to conduct a door-to-door HIV testing campaign, which has not yet begun but “is already being met with skepticism by activists who feel this is not a priority for the country, especially with global HIV/AIDS funding on the decline.” National AIDS officials say the country’s “AIDS levy — a three percent tax on income — has become a promising source of funding”; in 2010, $20.5 million was collected, with most of that going to purchase antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), PlusNews notes. Of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, 347,000 access ARVs through a national program, and another 600,000 people “urgently” need them, according to the news service.
“Countries need to change their current mindset to successfully tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said [Monday], adding that governments will need to explore new approaches to prevent and treat these diseases, which have quickly become one of the most pressing issues in public health,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/16). “In an opening speech to the annual WHO Executive Board meeting, Director-General Margaret Chan … urged the 34-member board to tackle the root causes of non-communicable diseases,” VOA News writes (Schlein, 1/16).
This post in the Foreign Policy Association blog discusses reports from earlier this month of “an emerging strain of ‘totally drug-resistant’ tuberculosis (TDR-TB)” in India, which the Indian government last week denied, “arguing that the 12 cases were in fact extensively drug resistant (XDR).” The blog states, “Whether or not it’s fair to use the TDR moniker, drug resistance is a serious, emerging issue that may very well define the next stage of global health,” concluding, “We are reaching a turning point, one at which some drug resistant pathogens are on the cusp of shifting from a handful of cases, an endemic, to a bigger, epidemic or even pandemic problem. Now is the time to initiate discussions on what the global community will do to stem drug resistance” (Robinson, 1/21).