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Also In Global Health News: Child, Maternal Mortality; AIDS 2010; Food Aid To N. Korea; Millennium Challenge Corporation; Family Planning Conference; Parasitic Disease Test

AU Summit To Examine Progress Toward Child, Maternal Mortality MDGs When leaders of African states gather for the African Union summit in Kampala, Uganda, in July, they will assess the continent’s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals relating to child and maternal mortality, Isaac Musumba, Uganda’s state minister for…

To Reduce Spread Of HIV/AIDS, IFRC Calls For More Focus On IDU Programs

Ahead of World AIDS Day, the International Federation of the Red Cross on Friday released a report (.pdf) calling for governments around the world to do more to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among populations of injecting drug users (IDUs), the Associated Press reports (Heilprin, 11/25).

Reuters Examines How Harm Reduction Policies In Switzerland Could Serve As Model For Reducing Spread Of HIV/AIDS Among IDUs

“Switzerland’s innovative policy of providing drug addicts with free methadone and clean needles has greatly reduced deaths while cutting crime rates and should serve as a global model, health experts said on Monday,” Reuters reports in an article that examines the outcomes resulting from drug policy reform in the country (Nebehay, 10/25).

In Order To End AIDS, Reduce Stigma Of Marginalized Groups And Accelerate HIV Cure Research

“‘Getting to Zero’ has been the slogan for World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) since 2011 and will remain so through until 2015, coinciding with the Millennium Development Goal target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, and Adeeba Kamarulzaman, director of the Center of Excellence for Research in AIDS and dean of the Faculty of Medicine at University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, write in a New York Times opinion piece. “This offers a starting point for some more sanguine reflection on how, amid generalized talk of zeros, targets and goals, we can so easily lose sight of the extraordinary barriers that prevent them being reached in the first place,” they continue.

UNAIDS Report Shows Progress Due To ‘Unprecedented Acceleration’ In Global AIDS Response

UNAIDS’ new World AIDS Day report: Results, released on Tuesday, “shows that unprecedented acceleration in the AIDS response is producing results for people,” according to a UNAIDS press release. Between 2001 and 2011, “a more than 50 percent reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved across 25 low- and middle-income countries — more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV,” the press release states, adding, “In addition to welcome results in HIV prevention, sub-Saharan Africa has reduced AIDS-related deaths by one third in the last six years and increased the number of people on antiretroviral treatment by 59 percent in the last two years alone.” According to the press release, “The area where perhaps most progress is being made is in reducing new HIV infections in children,” and the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped because of increased access to antiretroviral treatment.

Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi Accepts Role As UNAIDS Ambassador

“Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has accepted a new role with [UNAIDS] to advance efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination against those affected by the epidemic,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “She accepted the invitation to serve as Global Advocate for Zero Discrimination during a recent meeting with UNAIDS’ Executive Director Michel Sidibe at her residence in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw,” the news service notes. “It is a great honor to be chosen as a champion for people who live on the fringes of society and struggle every day to maintain their dignity and basic human rights. I would like to be the voice of the voiceless,” Suu Kyi, who is a member of parliament in Myanmar, said, according to the news service (11/20). In a statement, Sidibe said, “From small villages to big cities, from Africa to Asia, people are talking about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi … She is inspirational,” according to Agence France-Presse (11/20).

European Health Officials Warn Greece To Address Increasing Number Of HIV Cases

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).

AIDS Activists March In Washington, India To Protest Marginalization Of Sex Workers, Drug Users

“AIDS activists gathering in Washington, D.C., and Kolkata, India, this week have denounced conditions attached to U.S. global AIDS funding, which they say have damaged the response to the epidemic by further marginalizing sex workers — among those hardest hit” by the epidemic, the Guardian reports. “International organizations that receive funds through [PEPFAR] must sign an ‘anti-prostitution pledge’ prohibiting them from doing anything that could be perceived as supporting sex work,” the news service notes. According to the Guardian, “U.S. organizations that receive PEPFAR money are no longer bound by the pledge, after successfully taking the government to court on the basis that the conditions attached to funding violate first amendment rights,” but “organizations outside the U.S. are still required to sign it” (Provost, 7/25).

AIDS 2012 Speakers Warn Vulnerable Populations Will Miss Out On HIV Prevention Advances

“Excitement about turning the tide in the fight against HIV is being tempered by researchers who worry some of the most vulnerable populations will miss out on medical advances,” delegates of the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) heard at Thursday’s plenary session, VOA News reports (Seldin, 7/26). Ugandan physician Paul Semugoma, who works with homosexual and transgender patients, told the session that one of the biggest challenges is reaching people at risk of HIV infection with prevention information, especially when stigma and discrimination are prevalent, VOA says in another article (7/26). “Semugoma says too many physicians fail to ask their patients about their sexual histories in a misguided effort not to discriminate,” VOA writes (7/26). Researcher Cheryl Overs of Australia’s Monash University spoke about how discrimination and stigma hinder the AIDS response among sex workers, VOA reports in yet another article (Seldin, 7/26). Speaking about new HIV prevention methods, Overs said, “The risk to sex workers of all genders will be enormous if condoms are replaced by partially effective HIV methods that do not protect against STIs [i.e., sexually transmitted infections] or unwanted pregnancies,” according to the news service.