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South Africa Announces Initiative To Test Thousands Of Miners For TB

“South Africa wants to test hundreds of thousands of miners for tuberculosis [TB] and ensure sufferers get treatment over the next year,” David Mametja, head of South African National Department of Health’s TB program, said Tuesday at a workshop organized by the Stop TB Partnership, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Mametja “said the government is concerned the high prevalence of the disease among miners is holding an entire region back in the fight against TB,” and that while “it may be impossible to reach the nearly 600,000 miners in South Africa in one year, even those at highest risk in the gold industry, … setting an ambitious target is a way to show ‘it’s not business as usual,'” the AP writes.

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Urges Lawmakers To Be Tested For HIV, Publicly Reveal Status As Part Of New Initiative

In an announcement launching the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV (ZIPAH) in Harare on Thursday, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said since he came to office in 1980 “quite a number of” his cabinet ministers have died of AIDS-related causes, and he challenged government officials to get tested for HIV and publicly reveal their status, the Zimbabwean reports (3/1). Chaired by lawmaker Blessing Chebundo, ZIPAH “aims to end HIV transmission among legislators and increase cooperation with other groups,” according to VOA News, and “so far 175 parliamentarians, including 25 staff members, have joined the program.” Chebundo “said the first public testing will take place in two months,” the news service notes.

Inexpensive Test, Treatment For Syphilis Could Save Nearly 1M Infants Annually

An inexpensive test and single-dose treatment could help save the lives of nearly one million infants annually if pregnant women in low-income countries were offered rapid tests for syphilis, experts from the Global Congenital Syphilis Partnership said on Thursday, Reuters reports. “A team of researchers led by Rosanna Peeling and David Mabey at the [London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)] found in a study due to be published soon that introducing rapid tests to increase access to syphilis screening was both feasible and cost effective,” the news agency writes.

March Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

The March issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on global shortages of medicines; a public health round-up; an article on breast cancer awareness; a research paper on interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; and a paper on the global burden of cholera (March 2012).

CDC Official Speaks About HIV, TB Work In Africa, Haiti

As part of its series of interviews with CDC staff working on global HIV and tuberculosis (TB) research and development, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog spoke with Jordan Tappero, “who is currently serving as director for the Health Systems Reconstruction Office in the Center for Global Health, an office opened in response to the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.” In the interview, “Tappero describes his early research in HIV and TB, thoughts on why Uganda is the only sub-Saharan African country not enjoying a reduction in HIV incidence, and how quickly HIV services were restored to people living in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 2/29).

Kenya’s Ability To Diagnose, Treat MDR-TB Questioned After Mismanagement Of Patient’s Case

“The Kenyan government’s recent failure to adequately treat a patient with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has some civil society organizations questioning whether the country’s TB program is equipped to diagnose and treat such patients,” PlusNews reports. “The government admits the TB program in Kenya has not been adequately funded despite the country’s big TB burden,” PlusNews writes, adding, “Kenya ranks 13th on the list of 22 high-burden TB countries in the world and has the fifth-highest burden in Africa.”

WHO, PAHO Release New Guidelines On Mosquito-Borne Chikungunya Virus

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), a regional arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), on Tuesday “unveiled new guidelines to help countries throughout the Americas detect and prevent transmission of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus — a disease which has already infected more than two million people around the world,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The guidelines’ authors, PAHO adviser on viral diseases Otavio Oliva and PAHO adviser on dengue Jose Luis San Martin, warned that the fact that people in the Americas have not been exposed to chikungunya virus, placed the region at particular risk for the introduction and spread of the virus,” the news service adds (2/28).

China’s AIDS Action Plan Calls For Education, Condom Distribution To Stem Spread Of HIV

China’s State Council, or cabinet, on Wednesday “published the country’s AIDS Action Plan for the 12th Five-Year Program period (2011-2015) on the website of the Chinese government, http://www.gov.cn,”; Xinhua/China.org.cn reports (2/29). According to the plan, “China hopes to cap the number of people living with HIV/AIDS at 1.2 million by 2015, up from around 780,000 at present,” by promoting condom use, reducing stigma and discrimination, and educating urban and rural populations, as well as local officials, about the disease, Reuters notes (Blanchard, 2/29). In addition, the plan aims to implement interventions among people at higher risk of infection, such as drug users, and increase the rates of HIV testing and treatment, according to Xinhua (2/29).

Health Indicator Reports Show More HIV-Positive South Africans Receiving Care But Costs Increasing

Two new reports from southern Africa’s Health Systems Trust show that pregnant women, infants, and people newly diagnosed with HIV infection are receiving more services, but the costs of care are increasing, PlusNews reports. The annual District Health Barometer shows that about half of infants born to HIV-positive mothers are being tested for the virus at six weeks; almost all pregnant women are tested for HIV, helping to lower the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission to below four percent nationwide; and about 70 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV receive screening for tuberculosis (TB), according to the news service.

Two New Analyses Raise Questions About Fatality Rate Of Bird Flu

In an analysis (.pdf) published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science, a team led by virologist Peter Palese of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York raises questions about the WHO’s estimated fatality rate from H5N1 bird flu, saying the rate of 59 percent is based on “an estimate of human bird flu cases that is simply too low,” Reuters reports. The WHO has recorded 586 cases of people infected by bird flu, and of those, 346 have died, the news agency notes (Begley, 2/23). Palese and colleagues say “it is not possible to determine an accurate fatality rate for H5N1 infections based on” available data, but “if one assumes a one to two percent infection rate in exposed populations, this would likely translate into millions of people who have been infected, worldwide” (Wang et al., 2/24). And in a paper published Friday in mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota and a member of the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) and a colleague conclude that “[t]he available seroepidemiologic data for human H5N1 infection support the current WHO-reported case-fatality rates of 30% to 80%” (Osterholm/Kelley, 2/24).