PRI’s “The World” this week features a series examining the challenges of addressing cancer in the developing world. The series, produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, includes radio stories, multimedia features, an interactive map, and infographics, according to the main page. The radio stories examine cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S. (12/3). In an interview with the series’ principal reporter, Joanne Silberner, Lancet editor Richard Horton said, “Cancer is certainly being under-recognized and neglected in low- and middle-income countries. … I think cancer is slowly becoming more recognized but there is a long way to go before it gets the attention it so urgently needs (12/3). On December 5, PRI will host a Facebook chat from 10am-4pm EST that will feature Silberner and cancer researchers and advocates (12/4).
“Yellow fever has killed 164 people over the last three months in Sudan’s Darfur, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday,” Reuters reports. According to a joint statement, “Between 2 September and 29 November, the total number of suspected yellow fever cases has reached 677, including 164 deaths,” the news agency writes. Aid agencies provide almost all available health care in Darfur, “where rebels took up arms in 2003 complaining of neglect by the central government,” according to Reuters. Sudan’s health ministry and the WHO have vaccinated more than half of a targeted 3.6 million people in the region for the disease, the news agency notes (Dziadosz, 12/3).
Officials with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said Greece must act to combat a rising number of HIV cases within high-risk populations, including drug users, or face increased health care costs in the future, Reuters reports. ECDC Director Marc Sprenger said, “Immediate concerted action is needed in order to curb and eventually stop the current outbreak,” according to the news agency. “Sprenger will meet Greek officials this week to say that free needles, syringes and opioid substitution projects must be stepped up, and testing and treatment for the human immunodeficiency virus made available to all,” Reuters writes, noting the ECDC published a report on HIV in Greece (Kelland, 11/29). The ECDC “reported 314 cases of the AIDS-causing virus among injecting drug users in the first eight months of this year,” compared “with 208 for all of 2011 and no more than 15 cases a year from 2001 to 2010,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. While the extent to which Greece’s economic crisis has contributed to the outbreak is unclear, austerity measures and high unemployment may fuel new infections in Athens and beyond the capital unless programs to provide methadone, clean needles and condoms are expanded, the … ECDC said,” the news agency writes (Bennett, 11/30).
“While India has drastically reduced the spread of HIV over the past decade, new strains of the virus that cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) are troubling medical scientists in this country,” Inter Press Service reports (Devraj, 11/29). According to SciDev.Net, “[S]cientists have found new strains of the HIV-1 subtype C — which is responsible for half of the world’s HIV infections — are evolving rapidly in this country.” “The scientists, led by Udaykumar Ranga, professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore, have identified five different strains of HIV-1C,” the news service writes, adding, “The proportion of some of these new strains of the HIV-1C went up from two percent in 2000-2003 to 30 percent a decade later, said their study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry this month” (Bhatta, 11/30).
“Haiti and the Dominican Republic will require $2.2 billion over the next 10 years for an ambitious plan to eliminate cholera, an official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] said Wednesday,” the Associated Press/NewsOK reports. “The plan is due to be rolled out in a week or two and it outlines a government-led effort backed by the CDC, the Pan American Health Organization and UNICEF,” though it is “still unclear who will pay for what would be the biggest endeavor yet to develop Haiti’s barely existent water and sanitation system,” the news service writes (Daniel/Mendoza, 11/29).
UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership on Tuesday launched an “initiative aimed at reducing HIV deaths caused by tuberculosis (TB) by half” by 2015, the U.N. News Centre reports (11/27). The memorandum of understanding signed by the groups states they will “take action … to strategically address the intolerable burden of TB mortality borne by people living with HIV,” according to a UNAIDS press release. “The two organizations are developing a detailed work plan and have committed to collaboration to achieve three main objectives within the next three years: increase political commitment and resource mobilization for TB/HIV; strengthen knowledge, capacity and engagement of civil society organizations, affected communities and the private sector; and help most-affected countries integrate TB/HIV services,” the press release continues (11/27). “TB/HIV is a deadly combination. We can stop people from dying of HIV/TB co-infection through integration and simplification of HIV and TB services,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, according to the U.N. News Centre (11/27).
In the Huffington Post’s “Healthy Living” blog, Ward Cates, president emeritus of FHI 360, examines the HIV treatment cascade, which he says “is crucial both to assuring the individual’s health and to achieving the public health goal of an AIDS-free generation.” The first step in the cascade is HIV testing, which determines whether an individual should be referred for and receive HIV care and treatment, he notes, adding, “We can use the cascade model to help gain accurate assessments of the ‘leakage points’ in the HIV care and treatment system. By knowing where in the cascade we need to focus, we can provide additional incentives for patients and resources for providers to improve retention.” Cates describes several novel prevention technologies, highlights programs in different countries working to bring people into the cascade, and concludes, “As we pause to reflect on 2012’s World AIDS Day, let’s resolve to get everyone on board to make the most of the tools we have. We can conquer this disease” (11/27).
Global Polio Eradication Initiative IMB Report Optimistic But Warns Of Possible Polio Resurgence In 2013
Though there is “significant risk” of a resurgence of polio in 2013, a new report (.pdf) from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is optimistic about the eradication of the disease, noting that 99.9 percent of polio has been stopped worldwide, with 175 cases reported so far in 2012 compared with 350,000 reported in 1988, BBC News reports. Though the IMB’s “target of stopping global polio transmission by the end of the year will clearly not be achieved,” only four countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Chad â€“ reported cases in 2012 and India was declared polio-free in January, marking a milestone taking it off the list of endemic countries, BBC notes.
“A new virus from the same family as SARS which sparked a global alert in September has now killed two people in Saudi Arabia, and total cases there and in Qatar have reached six, the World Health Organization said” on Friday, Reuters reports (Kelland, 11/23). “Of the six known cases … two have been fatal” and “[o]nly two were clearly connected,” as they were members of the same family, according to the New York Times (McNeil, 11/23). In 2003, nearly 8,500 people worldwide were infected by SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, and about 900 of those people died, the Associated Press/CBS News reports. “The WHO said it was continuing to work with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other international health partners to gain a better understanding of the [current] virus,” the news service notes (11/23).
“More than one-quarter of people diagnosed with tuberculosis [TB] at a clinic in India’s largest city of 18 million have a strain that doesn’t respond to the main treatment against the disease, according to preliminary data from a new diagnostic being tested,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The newspaper obtained “preliminary and not peer reviewed” data from TB clinics in Mumbai, and Puneet Dewan with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation TB program in India “said the WHO and Indian authorities are taking the data seriously because it appears to confirm other studies in recent years of similarly high rates of multi-drug-resistance, in which patients don’t respond to the two most powerful TB medicines.” According to the newspaper, “The WHO and India currently estimate India has about 100,000 of the 650,000 people in the world with multi-drug-resistance” (Anand/McKay, 11/23).