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Also In Global Health News: Reproductive Health In Philippines; Microfinance Debt In India; HIV/AIDS In Kenya; Google’s DotOrg

Reproductive Health Bill Is Approved By Philippines House Of Representatives

IRIN reports a “hotly debated” bill “that proposes national funding for, and access to, reproductive healthcare services and products,” cleared “a major hurdle on [Monday] after being approved by a committee of the Philippines House of Representatives” (2/1). Biliran Rep. Rogelio Espina, chairman of the panel voting on the bill, “said the bill would [now] be referred to the committees on rules and on appropriations. He said he expects the measure to be debated in the plenary next month,” the Philippine Star reports. The article includes comments by those in favor and opposed to the bill (2/1).

Guardian Examines Microfinance In India

The Guardian examines the effects of microfinance debt in India. “Around 30 million households in India have received £4bn [$6.45 billion] in [microfinance] loans over the past 15 years. In recent months, however, the industry has been thrown into crisis as it has become clear that a significant number of borrowers – between a tenth and a third, depending on the estimate – cannot afford to repay their loans,” the newspaper notes. The article looks at how some families get “addicted” to debt and examines how the number of companies involved in microfinance and their business models have contributed to the proliferation of debt. “The industry here is dying a slow death now,” said Vijay Mahajan, founder of the major microfinance lender MFI and a spokesman for the industry in India. “It is really tragic. This is a huge blow to sustainable financing for the poor. It will take a decade before anyone sensible goes back into this field,” he said (Burke, 1/31).

HIV/AIDS Advocates Speak Out After Kenyan Cabinet Member Discusses Viability Of Isolating People Living With HIV/AIDS To Control Spread Of Virus

IRIN/PlusNews reports on the recent statements a Kenyan cabinet member about isolating people living with HIV/AIDS as a means of controlling the spread of the virus and reactions by local and international HIV/AIDS advocates. On January 28, Esther Murugi, minister for special programmes, during a meeting with member of the parliament on HIV/AIDS, was quoted as discussing the possibility of holding HIV/AIDS patients in isolation. “Jacqueline Sewe, a member of local NGO Women Fighting AIDS in Kenya (WOFAK), has called on the minister to either publicly apologize to people living with HIV or resign,” according to the news service. Meanwhile, “[i]n a text message, the minister told IRIN/PlusNews she was not promoting the idea of isolation, but was merely suggesting it as one option,” the news service adds (1/31).

New York Times Examines Google’s Approach To Philanthropy

The New York Times examines Google’s approach to philanthropy through the creation of Google.org (DotOrg), an organization set up as a business unit within the company. The article traces the initial high hopes of executives that DotOrg would help “tackle major problems like climate change, global poverty and the spread of pandemic diseases” by starting companies, building industries and turning a profit, to the current reality: “DotOrg has narrowed to just one octave on the piano: engineering-related projects that often are the outgrowth of existing Google products.” The article describes some of the challenges DotOrg faced early on as well as recent efforts to reorganize. The article also highlights its successful projects, including “Google Earth to track environmental changes and monitoring Web searches to detect flu outbreaks” and the development of tools to respond to disasters, “such as a database to track missing people after the earthquake in Haiti,” and “a map-based tool set up after Pakistan’s floods that helps relief workers locate available hospital beds” (Strom/Helft, 1/29).