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Syrian Conflict Destroying Country’s Health Care System

“The nearly two-year conflict in Syria has taken tens of thousands of lives, destroyed entire neighborhoods and sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing. But more quietly, it has also eaten away at the country’s health care system,” IRIN reports. Many pharmaceutical factories, “which used to produce more than 90 percent of the country’s drug needs,” have shut down or cut production, the news service writes, adding, “Those medicines that are available have also risen in price, and amid skyrocketing unemployment and rising food prices, many Syrians — especially those displaced from their homes by the violence — are struggling to afford their usual medication.”

Uganda’s Proposed Anti-Homosexuality Legislation Would Inhibit Health Care Access

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog examines the potential impacts of a proposed anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, writing that the bill “would stand as an obstacle to both access to health care and to the ability of health care providers to even offer services,” making prevention of “the bill’s passage a matter of life and death, as well as of rights and dignity.” According to the blog, “The record of Uganda’s HIV fight, once hailed as a model and a success story, now showing the most alarming reverses in Africa, stands as testament to what happens to health responses in a setting where science, human rights, and the realities of the impact of discriminatory laws are ignored. In all of those, of course, Uganda is far from alone, raising the question of what the world’s greatest united humanitarian effort, the work to treat and prevent the spread of HIV, could achieve when those issues are addressed.” The blog briefly examines other countries’ anti-sodomy laws and proposed anti-homosexuality legislation (Barton, 12/10).

Five Polio Vaccination Workers Killed In Pakistan

“Gunmen killed five Pakistani women working on a [three-day] U.N.-backed polio vaccination campaign in two different cities on Tuesday, officials said,” the Associated Press reports, adding, “The attacks were likely an attempt by the Taliban to counter an initiative the militant group has opposed.” According to the news agency, “The attacks came a day after an unknown gunman killed a male volunteer for the World Health Organization’s anti-polio campaign in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi” (Jawad, 12/18). “In Karachi, provincial Health Minister Saghir Ahmed said the government had told 24,000 polio workers it was suspending the anti-polio drive in the province,” Reuters reports. “Some Islamists and Muslim preachers say the polio vaccine is a Western plot to sterilize Muslims,” while “[o]ther religious leaders have taken part in campaigns aimed at debunking that myth,” the news agency notes, adding, “There have been at least three other shootings involving polio eradication workers this year” (Shah et al., 12/18).

Lancet Examines Indonesia’s Efforts To Reduce Maternal Mortality

The Lancet examines Indonesia’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality, one of the Millennium Development Goals President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has identified as a national priority. Indonesia’s risk of maternal death is one in 150, compared with one in 4,000 in developed nations, and the government has set a goal of reducing mortality to 102 for every 100,000 live births by 2015, one-quarter of the rate in 1990, according to the journal. Gita Maya Koemara Sakti, recently appointed as director of maternal health, explained the Ministry of Health “has adopted a four-step plan that starts with bolstered family planning campaigns,” the Lancet writes. Other efforts include providing free maternal health care through the national social assistance system, improving the national midwifery program, and providing more funding to rural health clinics, the journal notes. The Lancet includes quotes from other government officials and non-governmental organization representatives regarding these efforts and the challenges faced (Webster, 12/8).

GlobalPost Blog Interviews Reporter Joanne Silberner About PRI Series On Cancer In Developing World

GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog features an interview with freelance reporter and artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle Joanne Silberner, a former NPR correspondent, about her recent series for PRI’s “The World,” titled “Cancer’s New Battleground — The Developing World.” Produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the series examines cancer prevention, control, and research efforts in Uganda, Haiti, India, and the U.S., according to the blog. Silberner said she was “astounded” to learn “there are more deaths from cancer (in the developing world) than if you added up the deaths from HIV, [tuberculosis], and malaria,” the blog notes. She also said she was “surprised” to learn about the stigma against cancer in the developing world, which “keeps people from coming in [to clinics]” and “keeps local governments from supporting treatment efforts.” Silberner also said coverage of global health issues is important to raise awareness and knowledge in the U.S. (Judem, 12/6).

Opinions: Kangaroo Care; NTDs, Women’s Health

Kangaroo Care Could Help Mothers In Poor Settings To Save Their Babies New York Times contributing writer Tina Rosen, on the newspaper’s “Opinionator” blog, examines the success of a system known as kangaroo care, which has helped to improve the survival rates of premature infants by using skin-to-skin contact with…

Also In Global Health News: Clinical Trial Participants Abroad; PMTCT Project In Malawi; Congo Polio Outbreak; Global Fund Zambia Grant; Women, Girls In Afghanistan

Lancet World Report Examines Protections In Place For Clinical Trial Participants Abroad Lancet World Report, in a follow-up on the revelations over the U.S.’s role in medical experiments conducted on Guatemalan prisoners in the 1940s writes: “A thorough review of the safeguards in place to protect modern human trial participants…

HIV Prevention Programs Worldwide Are Missing MSMs, Survey Finds

An online survey of men who have sex with men (MSM) and their health service providers shows that the majority of respondents said most “gay men worldwide don’t have access to HIV testing, counseling or free condoms and lubricant, a new study finds,” according to the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), HealthDay/Businessweek reports.

Recent Releases In Global Health

‘Complacency Is Dangerous’ In Global HIV/AIDS Fight: A Lancet Editorial is critical of UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe’s statement in the annual UNAIDS report that “We have halted and begun to reverse the epidemic.” The editorial states, “These words, from the head of a U.N. agency, are reckless and premature, and…

U.N. Says PMTCT Of HIV Is Achievable, Efforts Must Target Millions Currently ‘Falling Through The Cracks’

“A generation of babies could be born free of AIDS if the international community stepped up efforts to provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and social protection, the United Nations said on Tuesday,” Reuters reports. The declaration came on the eve of World AIDS Day, as U.N. leaders released a new report (.pdf), which found “millions of women and children, particularly in poor countries, fall through the cracks of HIV services either due to their gender, social or economic status, location or education,” according to the news service (Kelland, 11/30).

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