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Also In Global Health News: South Africa TB Study; Plight Of Widows; Africa Invests In Science; Global Fund Money To Indonesia

Study In South Africa Examines TB/HIV Coinfection, MDR-TB

Researchers found that 50 percent of deceased patients at a hospital in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal were infected with active tuberculosis, and 17 percent of those with active TB had a multi-drug resistant strain, according to a PLoS Medicine study published on Tuesday, Nature News reports (Maxmen, 6/23). Post-mortem examinations of 240 patients, who were between the ages of 20 to 45 and died in either 2008 or 2009, revealed that 94 percent of them were also HIV-positive, according to IRIN. Study co-author Douglas Wilson, head of medicine at Edendale Hospital said, “We were absolutely staggered by the amount of TB we found” (6/23).

According to a PLoS press release, the “findings suggest that improving the early diagnosis of tuberculosis, for example, routine screening for tuberculosis among HIV-positive patients, and speedier initiation of treatment for both tuberculosis and HIV could reduce the global death toll from tuberculosis” (6/22). Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Stop TB Partnership said of the study, “It confirms that over the last few years, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis has become rampant in people living with HIV [in Africa],” Nature News reports (6/23). According to IRIN, South Africa recently revised its HIV, TB treatment guidelines (6/23).

More than 115M Widows Live In Poverty

More than 115 million widows “live in devastating poverty,” the Associated Press reports, citing a new study launched by Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The story highlights widows in Afghanistan and Iraq who have lost husbands to conflict and elderly women caring for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The report cites that “over 500 million dependent and adult children of widows are caught in a vicious underworld in which disease, forced servitude, homelessness and violence are rampant and youngsters are denied schooling, enslaved or preyed upon by human traffickers.” The Loomba Foundation, which commissioned the report, is working put the “plight of the world’s widows on the U.N. agenda” and to have the body recognize International Widows Day (Lederer, 6/23).

African Governments Pledge To Invest In Science

Nature News reports on the African Science, Technology and Innovation Endowment Fund, part of a new “whiff of scientific renaissance” on the continent. According to the article, “[d]ependence on international aid causes big problems for African scientists” as money from philathropists, non-governmental organizations, aid agencies and research funders come with their own priorities and grants can be cut off, interrupting projects. The fund needs twice the $500,000 it has already received before it can support research. The article includes quotes from researchers and notes that in comparison to previous attempts to increase African governments’ research budgets, “improved political stability on the continent augurs well for new investments in science” (Nording, 6/23).

Global Fund Awards $55M To Indonesia For HIV Response

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria signed new grant agreements with Indonesia worth $55 million, Antara News reports (6/23). The grants are “to scale up the government and civil society’s response to HIV in all 33 of the country’s provinces,” according to a Global Fund press release. The new grants will be administered by the Ministry of Health, the National AIDS Commission and Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organization in the country (6/23).”Michel Kazatchkine, the executive director of the Global Fund, said that Indonesia continued to be receive funding because the country has strengthened its control over [HIV's] spread,” Jakarta Globe reports. The new agreement is the ninth installment of the Global Fund’s $414 million pledge to fighting HIV/AIDS in Indonesia (Sagita, 6/23).