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Also In Global Health News: Medical Technology Network In N. Korea; MDR-TB Drug Maker Closes; Global Fund Financing; Zuma’s HIV Test; HIV Vaccine; UNICEF Head’s Term Ends

N. Korea Launches Medical Video Conference Network

North Korea on Tuesday formally launched a medical video conference network “aimed at giving smaller, rural hospitals access to specialists in the capital Pyongyang,” the Associated Press reports. “WHO has been providing cameras, computers and other equipment to North Korea to help the reclusive, impoverished country connect a main hospital in Pyongyang with medical facilities in 10 provinces.” According to the AP, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan attended the inaugural ceremony for the system Tuesday, after arriving in Pyongyang on Monday, “becoming the U.N. agency’s first chief to visit the communist country since 2001” (Kim, 4/27).

Only North American MDR-TB Drug Maker Closing After 5 Years

An Indiana-based manufacturer of a treatment for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is closing, the Associated Press/Indianapolis Business Journal reports. “The Purdue Research Foundation says the Chao Center for Industrial Pharmacy and Contract Manufacturing was unable to become self-sustaining in part because of the recession. The center … reached an agreement with Eli Lilly and Co. in 2007 to become North America’s sole maker of the tuberculosis drug Seromycin” (4/27).

Global Fund Head Highlights Financing Challenges 

Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine recently highlighted the fund’s financial challenges and said he would spend most of his time traveling to obtain commitments until October when U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to chair a major pledging conference, Agence France-Presse reports. “The challenge for us in 2010 is to build on the results and mobilise the international community in a very difficult context,” he said. “These resources will largely determine where the world will be in 2015 with the health related (U.N.) Millennium Development Goals,” by their target date, Kazatchkine said. He noted that he will seek funding from Gulf countries and the Organisation of Islamic Conference states (4/26).

Zuma Publicly Reveals Results Of HIV Test, Launching Government Testing, Treatment Drive

South African President Jacob Zuma on Sunday publicly announced that his most recent HIV test had come back negative, “as his government rolled out a major AIDS prevention and treatment campaign,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Zuma’s HIV exam was part of a government drive to have 15 million of the country’s 47 million people tested by June 2011. Anyone who visits a government clinic, for any illness and regardless of symptoms, will be offered an HIV test” (Dixon, 4/26).

“After careful consideration, I have decided to share my test results with South Africans,” Zuma said Sunday, CNN reports. “The purpose is to promote openness and to eradicate the silence and stigma that accompanies this epidemic” (Smith, 4/26).

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe, “said South Africa’s undertakings offered hope to the continent,” the New York Times reports in an article examining the government’s plans to meet the needs of the population. “It’s the first time one country has scaled up so quickly, to so many people,” he said (Dugger, 4/25).

IPS Features Q&A With Executive Director Of Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise

In a Q&A with Inter Press Service, Executive Director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise Alan Bernstein reflects on the recent progress made in HIV vaccine development and the need for partnerships between academia, industry, public and private funders to speed vaccine development. Bernstein also comments on how the global economy has impacted HIV vaccine research (Kharsany, 4/26).

McClatchy/Miami Herald Examines UNICEF Head’s 5-Year Term

McClatchy/Miami Herald looks at Ann Veneman’s term as the head of UNICEF, which ends on April 30. “Some aspects of her five-year stint can be easily summed. The 72 countries she’s visited. The 17 separate trips to Africa she’s made. The 11,000 workers in more than 100 countries she’s overseen as executive director of the United Nations organization,” the news service writes. “Veneman has overseen an annual budget now approaching $4 billion. When all public and private contributions are added up, the United States accounts for more than $340 million of the total” (Doyle, 4/23).