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Also In Global Health News: Health Workers In Zimbabwe; Boston Globe Examines Aid; Foreign Doctors In Haiti; Dengue In New Delhi; HIV Drug Resistance

American Health Workers Now Await Trial In Zimbabwe 

Today, a Zimbabwean court released on bail four American citizens who were jailed and accused of dispensing AIDS drugs without proper licenses last week, the Associated Press reports. Six “health care workers,”  including a Zimbabwean and New Zealand national, were ordered to pay $200 bail, surrender passports and “live at their Mother of Peace Orphanage outside Harare” until they are due to reappear in court later this month (9/13).

The group is from Allen Temple Baptist Church, in Oakland California, which has carried and distributed antiretroviral drugs, food and clothing in the country since 2000, according to the New York Times (Dugger, 9/11). Their lawyer, Jonathan Samukange, “said they have proper licenses and were only supervising a pharmacy that mainly gave out AIDS medications,” the Associated Press reports in a separate article (Bryson, 9/12). According to a U.S. Embassy statement, consular officials had “been in regular contact with the group,” who according to the embassy “is receiving adequate treatment from police,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (9/12).  

Boston Globe Q&A Examines How Humanitarian Aid Can Be ‘Dangerous’ 

The Boston Globe published a Q&A with journalist Linda Polman, who “gives some powerful examples of unconscionable assistance” in her new book “The Crisis Caravan.” “I believe that aid could be given in a much more efficient and less dangerous way,” Polman told the Globe, adding “Aid is being used by parties that are at war with each other. Even if aid wants to be neutral, the choice is made for them. … If an aid organization cannot decide itself how to distribute aid, when to distribute aid, to whom to distribute aid, if the aid organization doesn’t have the power to make decisions about its own aid, you can do two things. You can say, ‘Well, that is just reality.’ Or you can say, ‘We will not deliver the aid.’” Polman also discusses her own experience reporting on U.N. operations and foreign aid in Sierra Leone (Stockman, 9/12).

Lancet World Report Explores The Unintended Consequence Of Foreign Doctors In Haiti

A Lancet World Report article looks at the “unintended consequence” of the “influx” of foreign doctors in Haiti after the earthquake:  “it caused many local private clinics to lose business, displacing Haitian medical professionals, who soon found themselves competing for patients in a marketplace dominated by volunteers.” The Lancet quotes Haitian doctors who are seeing fewer patients, performing fewer surgeries and bringing in less revenue since the earthquake. Funding from the American Red Cross and Partners in Health is paying 1,800 staff members at Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital, allowing it to “keep its doors open—at least for now.” Smaller non-profit Family Health Ministries is seeking funding to build a health center that would become “part of the public infrastructure.” The article further examines “the question of how long free foreign doctors should stay, and what may happen when they leave” (Adams, 9/11).

Concerns Of Dengue Spread Ahead Of Commonwealth Games In New Delhi

The Indian health ministry has confirmed 1,438 cases of dengue in New Delhi, but doctors say the estimate “likely was too low,” Bloomberg reports (Srivastava, 9/12). “Dr. Chusak Prasttisur, the Southeast Asia coordinator of communicable disease for the World Health Organization, expressed concerns that the worst of the epidemic was to come. …But K. Sujatha Rao, the health secretary, said Friday that the number of cases in New Delhi this year was no higher than usual,” the New York Times reports, adding that the country is scrambling “to finish construction projects in time for the Commonwealth Games, which will take place here in less than a month. … the athletes’ quarters will be near a breeding ground for the mosquitoes that spread the disease” (Kumar, 9/10). Rao “said government workers have done all that they could to kill the adult Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue and their larvae at all the places in the city that they could access,” and are fogging and spreading pesticides to kill the mosquitoes, according to the Wall Street Journal (Pokharel, 9/11).

IRIN/PlusNews Examines Threat Of HIV Drug Resistance In Africa

IRIN/PlusNews examines a program in Africa “to monitor transmitted HIV drug resistance as well as ‘secondary’ drug resistance (acquired during treatment), coordinated by the PharmAccess African Studies to Evaluate Resistance (PASER) – a project of the PharmAccess Foundation, a Dutch health NGO – and part of a broader initiative to track HIV drug resistance in Africa and Asia.” The program supports a recent study in Zambia that found “nearly 6 percent of patients about to start HIV treatment for the first time [in three clinics in Lusaka, Zambia,] already had resistance to standard first-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs,” that was published in JAIDS. According to the news service, the PASER program is tracking HIV drug resistance in five other African nations.

The article examines factors contributing to the spread of HIV drug-resistance and the challenges and costs associated with treating HIV-positive patients who are resistant to first-line HIV drugs. The piece includes quotes from Raph Hamers of the PharmAccess Foundation, who was the lead author of the study, and an HIV clinician in South Africa (9/9).