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Also In Global Health News: Zimbabwe’s HIV Prevalence Declines; Sri Lanka Flooding; Online Tool To Track Outbreaks; U.S. Recognition Of S. Sudan; TB In Swaziland

Study Examines Reasons For Zimbabwe’s HIV Prevalence Decline

Reuters reports that an article published in PLoS Medicine “said Zimbabwe’s [HIV] epidemic was one of the biggest in the world until the [prevalence of people] infected with HIV almost halved, from 29 percent of the population in 1997 to 16 percent in 2007.” The researchers’ findings “show that Zimbabweans have primarily been motivated to change their sexual behaviour because of increased awareness about AIDS deaths, which heightened their fears of catching the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes it.” The news service writes that the findings offer “important lessons on how to fight the AIDS epidemic in the rest of Africa, scientists said on Tuesday.” The Imperial College’s Simon Gregson, who was part of the study said, “Very few other countries around the world have seen reductions in HIV infection, and of all African nations, Zimbabwe was thought least likely to see such a turnaround” (Kelland, 2/9).

Sri Lanka Hit With More Monsoon Flooding

Additional “monsoon flooding in Sri Lanka ha[s] hit hundreds of thousands of victims who were forced from their homes just weeks ago,” Agence France-Presse reports. According to the U.N.’s Neil Buhne, “The impact on people of this second wave of floods is even greater than the first in large part as peoples’ capacity to cope was already diminished.” AFP reports that “Oxfam said that the destruction of rice fields had left Sri Lanka with long-term food security issues in addition to the immediate humanitarian needs” (2/8). According to the U.N. News Centre, more than 200,000 people have been displaced, and “[d]onors have, as of today, provided $8.4 million of the $51 million requested by humanitarian agencies last month to respond to the flood crisis” (2/8).

Online Tool Will Allow Scientists, Public To Track Outbreaks Of Animal Diseases

The New York Times reports on an online mapping tool called Predict that “will enable scientists and the public to track outbreaks of animal diseases that might jump to humans.” With support from a USAID grant, a group of human and animal disease experts developed the system that “will monitor data from 50,000 Web sites with many types of information, including World Health Organization alerts, online discussions by experts, wildlife trade reports and local news. How useful it is will depend on how well it filters that river of information,” according to the newspaper. The piece notes how the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, SARS and the family of viruses that includes Ebola are all believed to originate from animals (McNeil, 2/7).

Obama Announces U.S. Will Formally Recognize S. Sudan As Independent State Beginning In July

Hours after the results of a referendum showed Southern Sudan supported a split from the North, President Barack Obama on Monday announced his intentions to formally recognize the region as a “sovereign, independent state” beginning in July, Agence France-Presse reports (Tandon, 2/7). “According to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, which organized the early January vote and includes members from both sides, 98.83 percent of the people favored separation and 1.17 percent voted to keep the government united,” National Journal writes (Kaplan, 2/7). IRIN describes some of key issues that the north’s National Congress Party and the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement will need to work out ahead of the formal independence of the country, scheduled for July 9. Among several concerns: “More than 180,000 southerners have returned from the north in the past three months, adding pressure to communities already struggling to cope. Major humanitarian and development problems remain,” the news service writes (2/8).

Swazi Observer Examines Government’s Efforts To Control TB In Country

The Swazi Observer reports on the government of Swaziland’s efforts to control tuberculosis in the country. Speaking at an annual malaria conference, featuring a program on TB, on Saturday, the country’s Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Stephen Shongwe, described the government’s commitment to “ensur[ing] drugs are available” for people with TB. National Tuberculosis Control Programme Manager Themba Dlamini also spoke at the conference, stating, “Despite enormous advances in provision of services in recent years, TB’s deadly synergy with HIV and AIDS and a surge in drug-resistant strains are threatening to destabilise gains in TB control.” He added, “Co-infection with tuberculosis and HIV (TB/HIV) and multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis in all regions, make control activities more complex and demanding” (Masilela, 2/7).