Nigeria: “the end of HIV/Aids in sight”

President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has said the trends reflected in the latest Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) report signal that the end of the disease is in sight in the country, reports African Daily Voice.

Buhari said the availability of accurate and reliable HIV data for the country is crucial for planning effective health interventions to arrest the HIV epidemic and ultimately rid the country off this health threat. “The Nigeria AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey were designed to provide the data we need to plan adequately and consolidate on the progress towards the elimination of HIV in Nigeria.

The official HIV prevalence for persons aged 15-49 years in Nigeria is now 1.4 percent. An estimated 1.9 million Nigerians are now living with HIV with about one million persons on treatment.

March 19, 2019


Science inching forward with HIV “Cure” Research

World headlines from the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) held in Seattle last week are that for the second time, a bone marrow transplant eliminates HIV from the blood of a patient. Given its complexity and cost, this method is not likely to be used on a large scale.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) reported the case of an HIV-positive man who, after receiving a bone marrow transplant, no longer showed any sign of the AIDS virus, 18 months after he had stopped taking antiretroviral therapy. Dubbed “the London patient”, the man’s “recovery” follows a similar route of that of “the Berlin patient”, Timothy Brown, whose case was reported 11 years ago. Both men had the same type of cancer and both had stem cell transplants, from donors with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.

Scientists have warned that this breakthrough should not be described as a cure or as healing, as it would give false hope. Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS did emphasize that HIV science was given a boost with this news. “It gives us great hope for the future that we could potentially end AIDS with science, through a vaccine or a cure. However, it also shows how far away we are from that point and of the absolute importance of continuing to focus HIV prevention and treatment efforts”, said Sidibé.

mar 11, 2018


Poorest countries in the world lag far behind in health spending 

Spending on health has increased around the world but lower income countries still lag behind, reports The Telegraph.  

The analysis of spending on health by all 194 member states of the World Health Organization has found that in 2016 the world spent $7.5 trillion (£5.75 trillion) on health, close to 10% of global gross domestic product (GDP). On average $1,000 was spent on health per person in 2016 but half of the world’s countries spent less than $350 per person. According to the analysis only 20 per cent of the world’s population live in high income countries but these countries account for almost 80 per cent of spending on health.

Over the period studied, as countries became richer their domestic spending on health increased and their reliance on aid decreased. Upper middle income countries saw the greatest increase in domestic spending: from $130 per person per year in 2000 to $270 in 2016. This was accompanied by a drop in external aid. The analysis found that nearly half of donor funds for health went to HIV/Aids (28% of all donor funds), malaria (14%) and tuberculosis (4%). The report found that the external funding for HIV/Aids does not show a clear relationship with national prevalence or income level, varying by as much as $700 per person in different countries. The report said this discrepancy warranted further research. 

feb 25, 2018


Safety concerns again affect Ebola response in DRC

International aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has suspended work in an area of Democratic Republic of Congo close to where authorities are fighting an outbreak of Ebola, after two local staff members were abducted by gunmen, reports The Telegraph.

"On the February 8, MSF lost contact with two colleagues following an incident that took place between Nyabiondo and Masisi, North-Kivu province," an MSF spokesperson said. "Following that incident, MSF decided to suspend partially its activities in the health zone of Masisi. The staff have since returned safely. "In order to ensure its team security, MSF reduced its staff on the field but continue to provide vital medical care in the General Hospital of Masisi."

All other MSF activities, including its work to control Ebola, in the vast North Kivu province will continue as normal. 

According to the latest WHO Ebola update, the volatile security situation in North Kivu “at times limits the implementation of response activities,” with the risk of the disease spreading regionally or nationally still very high. 

feb 19, 2019


Ebola vaccine used to contain the disease in DRC

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is confident that an experimental vaccine being used in DRC is playing a major role in controlling the spread of Ebola. Cases of Ebola haven’t increased at the same rates as was the case in 2014 in West Africa before the vaccine was introduced. The rollout of the rVSV-ZEBOV in the DRC has been done using the “ring vaccination” strategy, which involves vaccinating the first and second degree contacts of an infected individual. The “immediate” group didn’t contract Ebola while some individuals in the delayed group contracted the disease. This evidence gave the WHO hope that the vaccine could be 100% effective.

Yet, six months after the first case was diagnosed, the outbreak is still not contained and cases are being reported almost daily and occasionally spreading outwards, reports “The Conversation”. The challenge is to reach adequate numbers of vaccinated people in a country where many people are on the move because of political violence and even for those living in relative peace, the poor infrastructure is not favorable for effective vaccination.

Feb 11, 2019


UHC Day – what is it?

A year ago, the WHO declared 12th December International Universal Health Coverage Day. One year on, many people across the world still struggle to get to a clinic or cannot afford the care available there.

International Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day) on December 12th aims to mobilize stakeholders to call for stronger, more equitable health systems to achieve universal health coverage, leaving no one behind. It’s an annual rallying point for the growing global movement for Health for All, according to http://universalhealthcoverageday.org/

Citizen News Service in India reports that countries require a strong primary health care platform as the backbone of universal health coverage. “If we do not have UHC, we risk losing the gains made in fighting HIV infection, TB, malaria or any other disease control. We cannot afford not to strengthen UHC. In addition to UHC, we also need to scale up research and development of better tools to prevent infections such as HIV”.

Dec 12, 2018


As Tanzania's LGBT fear for their lives, HIV will thrive

A report by CNN outlines fear and danger since the announcement by a powerful Tanzanian politician that people suspected of being gay should be rounded up and arrested. The call by Paul Makonda, regional governor of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city at the end of October initiated a chain reaction in the country, forcing many into hiding. In November, a young trans woman fled her home in Dar es Salaam to go to Kenya's capital, Nairobi, with the help of Kenya-based nongovernmental organization Jinsiangu, which is supported by the International AIDS Alliance and its Rapid Response Fund.

Those unable to flee are instead pushed underground and into hiding, kept from entering the outside world -- which blocks their access to health services, such as those protecting against HIV/AIDS.

Being forced to be "invisible" due to "public antagonism" exposes people to sexual violence and abuse for which they are also not taken seriously by the police, said Christine Stegling, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Growing homophobia will fuel the HIV epidemic, experts fear. "You have a whole part of the community not engaging in conversations about sex, sexuality and conversations around HIV," she said. "In the last couple of years, there's a really heightened hijacking of rhetoric against gay people as part of local politics, making life very hard for communities ... and to have HIV programs."

Global outcry in response to Mankonda's announcement has calmed the situation somewhat in Dar es Salaam and nationwide, but not entirely.

Dec 3, 2018


We all need more sleep!

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called sleep deprivation a public health crisis, saying that one-third of adults don’t get enough sleep.

The New York Times reports that some 80 percent of people report sleep problems at least once per week.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of the ways your sleep deprivation is personally harming you:

First, learn how much sleep you need. Generally, if you’re waking up tired, you’re not getting enough.

However, the gold standard of eight hours per night might not be right for you. A study from 2015 brought into question whether we need that magical number, so following your body is the best way to figure out the right rhythm. The only real guideline is to get as much sleep as you need to feel refreshed and energized the next day, and then do that every single night.

nov 5, 2018


International aid saves millions of lives but gains at risk: report

Reuters reports that international aid financing and innovation has helped to save nearly 700 million lives in the past 25 years, but those gains could be lost if momentum and political will wane.

A report by international aid advocacy group the ONE Campaign said the progress against preventable deaths and diseases since 1990 could stall, and even go into reverse, unless donor governments make new commitments to innovation and action.

The international community is “severely off track” to reach United Nations global health targets – agreed by 193 countries and known as the Sustainable Development Goals – by 2030, the report said.

It called on donors, governments and philanthropic organizations to “mobilize more money for health and deliver more health for the money”, arguing that such investments would pay off by boosting Africa’s economic output and stability.

The good news is that the world knows what it takes to succeed, said the report.

october 17, 2018


On the hunt for disease X

From Ebola to swine flu to HIV/Aids, viruses borne by animals have caused some of the most devastating epidemics in history. What will come next? In Sierra Leone, The Telegraph joined scientists working to find Disease X – a virus that is as yet undiscovered, but which could have the potential to ravage populations.

The virus hunters of Sierra Leone are part of an international network known as Predict, launched with $200 million funding from USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) and currently operating in more than 30 countries. The project has amassed tens of thousands of samples for analysis and discovered more than 900 new viruses. Predict is a forerunner of the more ambitious Global Virome Project – a 10-year plan to identify as many as possible of the estimated 1.6 million unknown viruses in birds and mammals. Of these, it is thought between 600,000 and 800,000 are zoonotic, meaning they have the potential to jump from animals to people. Earlier this year the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it was sufficiently concerned about what was lurking in the wild to include something called ‘Disease X’ in its global strategy plan, representing an as of yet undiscovered pathogen with the potential to spark a pandemic.

Virus hunting is a relatively modern preoccupation, pioneered in the mid-to-late 20th century by scientists such as Peter Piot (director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) and Karl Johnson, who first identified the Ebola virus in 1976.

october 8, 2018