In December 2011, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) advised that two research teams that had genetically altered the H5N1 virus to be easily transmissible among ferrets redact some of the research details before publishing in the journals Science and Nature. The board’s primary concern was that the altered virus could possibly be used as a bioweapon. Scientists in January voluntarily suspended bird flu research for 60 days, and the WHO is expected to hold a summit later this month to discuss the issue. The following are summaries of two opinion pieces on the topic.
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As part of a week-long series, titled “Generation Positive,” looking at the HIV epidemic in the U.S. and Washington, D.C., WTOP’s Thomas Warren examines the history of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. compared with Germany, where he traveled as a fellow with the RIAS Berlin Kommission. The article describes “the history of HIV in Germany, including the governmental policies aimed at handling the disease and how the virus is treated medically,” according to the introduction (Warren, 2/1).
This report, published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Tuesday and titled “The Private-Sector Role in Public Health,” reflects on an evolution in the roles and responsibilities of business in global health over the recent decades. “Private-sector engagement was among the main issues addressed at the recent 4th High Level Forum for Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea,” CSIS writes on its website, adding, “[A]s Lars Thunell, executive vice president and CEO of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), observed, ‘This could be the turning point where we recognize the mutually supportive roles of the private and public sectors in promoting development'” (Sturchio/Goel, 1/31).
An Indian girl between the ages of one and five years old is 75 percent more likely to die than an Indian boy, giving the country the worst gender differential in child mortality in the world, according to new data released by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Times of India reports. The “data for 150 countries over 40 years show that India and China are the only two countries in the world where female infant mortality is higher than male infant mortality in the 2000s,” the newspaper writes (Shrinivasan, 2/1). In India, for every 100 deaths among females one to five years old, 56 males of the same age group die, whereas the global average is 111 male child deaths to every 100 female children, India Today notes. “Higher mortality among girls is a powerful warning that differential treatment or access to resources is putting girls at a disadvantage,” the report said, according to the news service (2/1).
In this Global Health and Diplomacy opinion piece, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete examines efforts to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets on maternal and child mortality in Africa, noting, “Although Africa has just 12 percent of the global population, it accounts for half of all maternal deaths and half the deaths of children under five.” He writes, “Though global maternal deaths are in decline and women’s health has at last become a global priority, our goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent in 2015 is still a long way off. … It is unacceptable to allow mothers and children to die when we have the knowledge and resources to save them.”
“There have been 1,623 cases of all strains of flu in Mexico recorded so far for January, 90 percent of them H1N1 [swine flu],” compared to “about 1,000 flu cases in Mexico during all of last year,” of which roughly 250 cases were swine flu, Health Secretary Salomon Chertorivski Woldenberg told reporters on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. The news service notes, “Despite the spike, the number of cases is well within a normal flu season for Mexico, which can see from 5,000 to 11,000 incidents of all strains,” Woldenberg said. “The low appearance of the H1N1 virus the past two years is one reason it’s drawing so much media attention in Mexico,” the AP writes, adding, “Public nervousness about H1N1 has been high since the first outbreak in spring 2009, when the virus initially appeared to have a high mortality rate and Mexican authorities closed restaurants, schools, museums, libraries, and theaters to stop its spread” (2/1).
The Guardian examines the future of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as it enters its second decade, writing, “Despite its staggering successes — including helping put 3.3 million people on AIDS treatment, 8.6 million on anti-tuberculosis treatment and providing 230 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria — the fund’s recent troubles had threatened to overshadow its accomplishments as it prepared to mark a decade as the world’s main financier of programs to fight these three global epidemics.” The news service highlights a $750 million pledge to the Fund by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses recent managerial changes within the Fund, and quotes a number of experts about future challenges (Kelly, 2/2).
This post on the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ “Smart Global Health” blog reports on a presentation hosted by the Global Health Policy Center on Monday which “highlight[ed] the contributions faith-based-organizations (FBOs) make to global health, including the fight against HIV/AIDS.” The post highlights quotes from several speakers at the event, provides audio footage of the event, and links to podcast interviews with Kay Warren, founder of the HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church, and Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (1/31).
In this PLoS Medicine editorial, the editors review progress toward the journal’s goal of reflecting and addressing inequity in the burden of ill-health around the world as part of the Global Burden of Disease project — a “comprehensive work studying the burden of ill-health and death resulting from specific conditions, injuries, and risk factors,” a PLoS press release writes. “By prioritizing studies in areas that contribute most substantially to the global burden of ill-health and premature mortality, PLoS Medicine, as an open-access journal, can specifically ensure that this important research is disseminated and reused widely,” the press release states (1/31).
In this New York Times opinion piece, Paul Farmer, chair of the department of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School and a co-founder of Partners in Health, examines the importance of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as it faces a “serious financial shortfall,” writing, “Beyond AIDS, the Global Fund is currently the largest donor in the world for tuberculosis and malaria programs. … The question is not whether the Global Fund works, but how to ensure it keeps working for years to come.”