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Also In Global Health News: HIV In Cities; NIH Director’s Role In Global Health; Access To Healthcare in Kenya; Food Aid In Ethiopia; Low-Cost Microscope

UNAIDS Calls On Cities To Enhance Response To HIV; China Vows To Step Up Prevention

UNAIDS has “issued a call for cities to ‘take the lead in making HIV history’ by enhancing their response to the epidemic,” UN News Centre reports. The article notes that in the next four decades, “seven out of 10 global citizens will be calling mega-cities – with more than 10 million residents each – home.” UNAIDS Director Michel Sidibe discussed the issue of HIV in urban areas with “more than 100 health sector leaders and practitioners from across China at an event yesterday in Shanghai,” and said that cities “have not been sufficiently mobilized and supported to act” (8/11).

In Beijing, Sidibe met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who “pledged to step up efforts to fight AIDS,” Xinhua reports. “China will combine the prevention and containment of HIV/AIDS with reform of the medical and healthcare system to improve the people’s health by strengthening the public healthcare service,” Xi said. The vice president also “vowed to support appeals from the United Nations and the international community, bolster south-south cooperation with Africa and push for the realization of Millennium Development Goals worldwide,” according to the news service (8/12).

Nature News Examines Collins’ Role At NIH, Including Interests In Global Health, Neglected Diseases

Nature News profiles Francis Collins one year after he became director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), noting his contribution to global health. “[H]e has promoted his global health priority with initiatives such as a collaboration involving Britain’s Wellcome Trust medical charity, in which the NIH will contribute $25 million over five years to study the genetic and environmental underpinnings of chronic diseases in sub-Saharan Africa,” Nature writes. The article also discusses Collins’ interest in promoting translational research, reporting that he has “throw[n] his weight behind a programme aimed at speeding treatments for rare and neglected diseases towards human trials” (Wadman, 8/11).

Kenya Delays Implementation Of Plan To Guarantee Health Care For Poor

Many poor Kenyans are unable to pay for healthcare despite the country’s plans to “create a financing system which guarantees access to healthcare for all Kenyans, especially the poor and protect all Kenyans from health related financial shocks,” allAfrica.com reports. “[I]mplementation of that policy, planned for this year has delayed,” the news service writes. The government has “given priority to revamp the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF)” but the move is “unlikely to benefit many poor Kenyans who don’t make monthly contributions to the Fund,” according to allAfrica.com. The article notes the ministry remains in talks with groups on how to best implement the policy, and includes comments from Richard Kerich, chief executive of NHIF, Cleopa Mailu, CEO of Nairobi Hospital, and a communications officer at the ministry of medical services (Mbogo, 8/11).

Ethiopia May Not Need Food Aid In Five Years, PM Says

“Ethiopia may not need any food aid within five years thanks to an ambitious development plan that targets a heady average economic growth of 14.9 percent over the period, its prime minister said on Wednesday,” according to Reuters. Ethiopia received $3.3 billion in foreign aid in 2008, the news service reports, citing figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The country plans to double its agricultural output by 2015 “by encouraging investment and large-scale farming,” and also “hopes to exploit growing business ties with China, India and Turkey.” Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said, “I think that this is a very ambitious plan but at the very least the base-case scenario is doable” (Malone, 8/11).

Low-Cost, Battery Powered Microscope Effective At Identifying TB, Study Shows

“A new $240 microscope that runs on AA batteries is as effective for diagnosing tuberculosis as $40,000 professional laboratory models,” according to a study published last week in the journal PLoS One, TechNewsDaily/MSNBC reports in an article that examines how the “two and a half pound device … could be used in developing countries that lack expensive lab equipment and reliable electricity.” For the study, researchers compared analysis of 64 microscope slides of saliva samples, some of which contained tuberculosis, under the portable microscope to those made by the standard laboratory microscope. “In 98.4 percent of cases, the examiner’s conclusions using both microscopes were identical,” the news service writes (Pappas, 8/10). “While future field studies are planned to evaluate the reliability and ease of use of this microscope, the results presented here serve as a proof of principle that diagnosis of M. tuberculosis is possible using low-cost, portable fluorescence microscopy,” the study authors report (Miller et al., 8/4).

Edward Graviss, director of the Methodist Hospital Research Institute’s Molecular Tuberculosis Laboratory, and co-author of the PLoS One study “said the microscope would allow health care workers to more rapidly get people with TB on medication and isolate them so the disease doesn’t spread, the Houston Chronicle reports. “Some 1.3 million people a year die of TB, most in Africa, Asia and South America,” according to the newspaper (Ackerman, 8/11).