On Sunday, South Africa’s nine provinces began promoting the Tshwane Declaration, which “states unequivocal support for [exclusive breastfeeding (EBF)] for all infants up to six months, including HIV-exposed infants, who should receive antiretrovirals (ARVs) to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), as recommended in the 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines,” Inter Press Service reports. “But despite the clarity of the policy and its supporting data, vocal critics, including respected individuals from leading medical and academic institutions, have decried the choice,” the news service writes.
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“South Sudan officials are hopeful the country will soon be declared polio-free,” if the nation can go another four months without recording a polio case, VOA News reports. “Before 2008, the area that is now South Sudan had been considered free of polio,” but “[t]hat year the country was re-infected through an imported strain that originated in Nigeria,” the news service writes. The country has not recorded a new case in more than 32 months, Abdi Aden Mohamed, head of the WHO in South Sudan, said, adding, “We are very cautious in the sense of there are a number of countries surrounding South Sudan that cases might be here and there,” according to VOA. Volunteers working to vaccinate every child under the age of six recently concluded the country’s 24th immunization campaign since polio reappeared in the nation, the news service notes (Green, 3/30).
Funding Shortfalls Could Hinder Implementation Of Treatment As Prevention Strategies, Al Jazeera Reports
Al Jazeera examines the administration of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) worldwide, focusing on treatment as prevention (TasP), but says current funding levels are insufficient to implement the strategy. The HPTN 052 study showed that HIV-positive people who take ART could reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their HIV-negative partners by 96 percent, according to the news agency. “This research is considered a game changer,” Al Jazeera writes, noting, “2012 may not be the year the international community eliminates HIV, but health experts say it could still be the year where the tide is turned.” The article includes comments from several HIV/AIDS experts (Dalal, 3/31).
“This week, urgently needed food — 33,700 tons of sorghum from American farmers — will depart the United States for West Africa, as a part of the U.S. Government’s response to the drought in the Sahel,” Dina Esposito, director of the Office of Food for Peace, writes in this post in USAID’s “Impact” blog. She says that in addition to food aid, “USAID is also focusing on improving nutrition, increasing agricultural production, linking individuals to local markets through voucher programs, rehabilitating public infrastructure through cash-for-work schemes, and mitigating conflict, among other activities,” with the aim of “alleviat[ing] poverty and build[ing] community resilience to withstand future shocks” (3/30).
The April issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on the WHO research agenda for influenza; a public health round-up; an article on influenza in Ghana; a research paper on population-based burden of influenza-associated hospitalization in rural western Kenya; and a policy paper on the integration of pneumonia prevention and treatment interventions with immunization services in resource-poor countries (April 2012).
PRI’s “The World” examines the role of churches in the fight against HIV in Swaziland. The news service highlights several church-run HIV programs, writing, “Churches have long played an important role in caring for the sick, but in terms of HIV prevention they’ve been at odds with the public health community. It has often come down to one issue: until recently, Swazi church leaders publicly rejected the use of condoms by their congregants. But now you hear many comments that suggest a change in thinking.”
The New York Times examines the global response to Haiti’s cholera epidemic, writing that while “[m]any health officials consider the cholera response ‘pretty remarkable,’ as John Vertefeuille, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director in Haiti, said … [o]thers … believe the bar for success was set too low and more lives could have been saved.” The newspaper continues, “[A]s the deaths and continuing caseload indicate, the world’s response to this preventable, treatable scourge has proved inadequate.”
The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) on Friday recommended that revised versions of two controversial studies on H5N1 avian flu be published in scientific journals, reversing its previous recommendation that the studies only be published if certain details were withheld, the New York Times reports. The studies are the work of two research teams that created genetically altered viral strains that were airborne and therefore easily transmissible, the newspaper notes (Grady, 3/30). “In a statement [.pdf] released [Friday], the NSABB said it unanimously recommended that the revised manuscript by the University of Wisconsin group, headed by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, PhD, be published in full, and members voted 12 to six that the data, methods, and conclusions in the revised paper by the Erasmus group, headed by Ron Fouchier, PhD, be published,” CIDRAP News writes (Schnirring, 3/30).
“The United States has suspended planned food aid to North Korea as Pyongyang vows to push ahead with a plan to launch a long-range missile in defiance of international warnings, U.S. military officials said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports (Eckert, 3/29). “Under a deal reached last month, North Korea agreed to a partial nuclear freeze and a moratorium on missile testing in return for U.S. food aid,” but “Pyongyang then announced it would use a long-range rocket to launch a satellite,” VOA’s “Breaking News” blog writes (3/28). Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy on Wednesday “told lawmakers North Korea had violated [the] moratorium agreement and could not be trusted to deliver the aid properly,” BBC News writes (3/28). The aid package, containing 240,000 tons of food and nutritional products, “was expected to target the most needy in North Korea — including malnourished young children and pregnant women,” VOA News notes (Ide, 3/28).
“Officials in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, [in] northwestern Somalia, are appealing for food aid and potable water for thousands of families who have lost their livelihoods in the current drought,” IRIN reports. “In February, [the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP)] provided food assistance to nearly 150,000 people in Somaliland, according to Challiss McDonough, WFP’s senior spokesperson for East, Central and Southern Africa,” according to the news service. Food insecurity in some areas is classified at “crisis level,” with children, expectant and nursing mothers, and the elderly most affected, IRIN notes. “WFP is shifting its focus from emergency assistance towards targeted programs, including building reservoirs, wells and roads which support communities’ resilience to seasonal shocks, according to spokesperson McDonough, who said that in the past year WFP had doubled the number of nutrition programs in Somalia,” the news service writes (3/30).