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Also In Global Health News: Rwandan Nurses; AIDS 2010; Uzbek AIDS Advocate; Child Mortality In Mozambique; Meningitis Belt

Rwandan Nurses To Give ART To Expedite Delivery

Rwanda’s Ministry of Health will soon give nurses the authority to give antiretroviral therapy (ART) to HIV-positive patients, IRIN reports. Aimable Mbituyumuremyi, of the Centre for Treatment and Research on AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Other Epidemics, said, “Task-shifting will reduce the number of cases requiring the presence of a doctor, thereby reducing the number of treatment-eligible patients that have not initiated ART because they have to wait for the doctor’s visit” (2/26).

Sen. Coburn Asks For Money From AIDS Conference To Be Used On Treatment, Research; IAS Responds On Importance Of Conference

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has sent a letter to the conveners of the upcoming International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) in Vienna, Austria, asking them to cancel it and “use money for travel and meetings on treatment and research instead,” the Washington Times reports. “While I recognize the International AIDS Conference can provide a unique forum for networking, reviewing scientific developments and sharing information for many stakeholders, modern technology allows us to accomplish these goals for relatively little cost,” Coburn wrote in the Feb. 19 letter to the International AIDS Society (IAS), which convenes the conference. IAS President Julio Montaner responded to the letter: “My colleagues and I firmly believe that it would be foolhardy in the midst of such significant investments to not take the opportunity every two years to assess progress to date, generate new ideas and strategies and chart a collective course forward.” According to the Washington Times, while Montaner noted “more information is being shared electronically, he also pointed to benefits from previous conferences of the ‘in-person exchange of information, ideas and energy'” (McElhatton, 2/25).

The Kaiser Family Foundation will serve as the official webcaster of the AIDS 2010 conference.

Uzbek AIDS Advocate Sentenced To 7 Years In Prison For Writing HIV Brochure

Maxim Popov, an HIV/AIDS advocate in Uzbekistan, was “sentenced to seven years in prison” for creating a brochure that authorities said would promote antisocial behavior, his colleagues said on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reports. The brochure, aimed at raising HIV/AIDS awareness in the country, was funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UNICEF. “Prosecutors argued that the brochure, which called for the use of condoms during sex and sterile needles when injecting drugs, was promoting immoral behaviour, [an advocate who worked with him] said” (2/25).

Mozambican Health Minister Calls For Improved Efforts To Reduce Child Mortality

Mozambican Health Minister Ivo Garrido on Wednesday encouraged participants at a National Conference on Pediatrics to identify new ways to slash rates of child mortality in the country, which, “according to the 2008 statistics, stands at 138 deaths of children under the age of five per every 1,000 live births,” Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique/allAfrica.com reports. During the meeting – which was supported by PEPFAR, the CDC and UNICEF, among others – Garrido pointed to the effects of malaria and chronic malnutrition on Mozambican children’s health (2/25).  

Meningitis Epidemic Strikes Early In Sub-Saharan Africa; 246 Deaths In Burkina Faso

“A meningitis epidemic has struck earlier than usual and is spreading across sub-Saharan Africa’s ‘meningitis belt’ from Senegal to Ethiopia, according to health ministries in the region,” IRIN reports. According to the news service, in previous years, the most cases of the disease were reported in mid-April. This year “[a]s of 7 February, health ministries in high-risk countries reported 2,298 cases, with a 13-percent fatality rate,” IRIN writes (2/22). The Health Ministry of Burkina Faso reported Thursday that the country has “a total of 1,596 suspected cases of meningitis, with 246 deaths reported in all health districts,” compared to 1,281 cases and 203 deaths from meningitis over the same period of time last year, Agence France-Presse reports. In response, the WHO “has announced that in cooperation with the Burkinabe government, it will launch a ‘more effective’ vaccine against meningitis in the last quarter of 2010,” according to the news service (2/25).