Ethiopia’s new HIV/AIDS workplace policy, instituted in January by the government in cooperation with the country’s main employees’ and employers’ associations, “is expected to protect job seekers from mandatory HIV tests, while facilitating voluntary counseling and testing and defending the right of employees living with HIV to medical leave or job re-allocation,” PlusNews reports. The policy “provides guidelines for the establishment of an AIDS fund to help employees cope with living with the virus” and “stipulates that employers will make the necessary investments to ensure universal precautions in workplaces to protect employees from HIV infection, and … put in place a post-exposure prophylaxis system for their workforce,” the news service writes. Tadele Yimer, president of the Ethiopian Employers Federation, said, “What we hope [the new policy] will do is bring about an agreed consent and uniform approach among employers to fight HIV/AIDS nationally,” according to PlusNews (3/26).
Speaking at an event where South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe urged the mining industry to take greater steps to address tuberculosis (TB) and HIV among its employees, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu “announced that mining companies, whose HIV, TB and workplace safety policies are being audited by her department, will have to submit their policies as a prerequisite for renewing their mining licenses,” PlusNews reports. “According to Shabangu, South Africa’s mining sector sees three times as many cases of active TB as the general population,” the news service writes.
Inadequate Government TB Program, Lax Drug Sale Regulations Contributing To MDR-TB Cases In India, Health Groups Say
“India’s inadequate government-run tuberculosis [TB] treatment programs and a lack of regulation of the sale of drugs that fight the disease are responsible for the [increasing] number of drug-resistant cases that are difficult to treat,” health advocacy organizations said in India last week, the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. “India adds an estimated 99,000 cases of drug-resistant TB every year, but only a tiny fraction of those infected receive the proper” six- to nine-month antibiotic regimen, according to the AP. In India, government-run TB treatment programs only provide drugs to patients on alternate days, increasing the likelihood of missed doses, and patients increasingly are turning to private physicians who are unaware of how to treat the disease, Medecins Sans Frontieres in India and other health groups said, the news agency reports. “The Indian government had no response Friday to requests for comment on the activists’ allegations,” the AP writes (Naqvi, 3/23).
The South African “government plans to bring down new HIV infection rates to zero in the next 20 years, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Saturday” at a World Tuberculosis (TB) Day even at the Goldfields mine in Carletonville, Gauteng, SAPA/Independent Online reports. “He said the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections (STI) would aim [to] eliminat[e] new HIV and TB infections, mother-to-child HIV infections, and have zero preventable deaths as well as discrimination associated with” HIV and TB, according to the news agency (3/26). Motlanthe also “launched a plan to diagnose tuberculosis in the country’s gold mines, where the disease’s incidence is the highest in the world,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding, “Motlanthe said the goal was to ‘ensure that all mine workers, particularly in the gold mining sector, are screened and tested for TB and HIV over the next 12 months'” (2/24).
Speaking on Saturday at a World Tuberculosis (TB) Day event, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “called for a global effort to diagnose and treat tuberculosis,” United Press International reports (3/24). According to the WHO, 8.8 million people contracted TB in 2010, and 1.4 million people died of the disease, primarily in low and middle-income countries, CBS News’ “Health Pop” blog notes (Castillo, 3/24). “Let us vow to end the neglect of TB and to end deaths from this disease in our lifetime,” Ban said, adding, “It is critical to support those who lack the means to respond with the care and treatment they need to enjoy healthy and productive lives. … With the right interventions, we can make a major difference,” according to the U.N. News Centre (3/24).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during a visit to the Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “urged countries to step up their efforts to prevent tuberculosis (TB)” and “called for ‘intensified global solidarity to ensure that the children and people of all the countries get medical support, so that they can breathe with health,'” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking ahead of World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, Ban said “that countries have the means to prevent unnecessary deaths, but need to implement policies that not only raise awareness about the issue but provide accessible health care to their citizens,” according to the news service. In 2011, 1.4 million people died of TB, the news service notes (2/22).
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — “a form of tuberculosis that does not respond to standard treatment and can kill in a matter of months” — “is much greater than previously thought,” VOA News reports. “‘Wherever we’re looking for drug-resistant TB we’re finding it in very alarming numbers. And that suggests to us that the current statistics that are being published about the prevalence of MDR-TB are really just scratching the surface of the problem,’ said Dr. Leslie Shanks, medical director for the group,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 3/21).
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.
AIDS Survey Preliminary Data Show Stagnation In Uganda’s HIV Prevalence, Need For Improved Prevention Strategies, Experts Say
A preliminary report on the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey, conducted by the Ministry of Health, shows the country’s “HIV prevalence rate [has] stagnated over the last 10 years, [and] the number of people infected with HIV has risen from 1.8 million people to 2.3 million today,” the Observer writes. “Health experts at the launch of the preliminary report said this is not only worrying for a poor country like Uganda, but also shows that the billions of dollars sunk into prevention are not reaping any results, as people continue to get infected,” the newspaper writes.