News that matters: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and maternal health

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated our periodic series, “News that matters,” but I’m heading out on maternity leave here in a few weeks and wanted to post about news coverage on some of today's most relevant humanitarian issues.

In this post: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and child and maternal health. I hope the coverage below can offer some insight into these issues and provide some good food for thought.

Back in October!
Amy

HIV and AIDS

On June 5, 1981, doctors reported the first cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS have changed the way that many people -- both in the United States and around the world -- live their lives and speak out for the lives of others. Because this month marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of AIDS into our national health discussion, I wanted to include some of this month’s coverage about the disease -- and efforts to stop its spread.

Factbox: HIV/AIDS numbers from around the world
Reuters, 2 June 2011
An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS in 2009, according to the latest figures issued by UNAIDS. There were 26.2 million in 1999.

Tough decisions about money and treatment are ahead as AIDS turns 30
The Washington Post, David Brown, 30 May 2011
The AIDS epidemic turns 30 next month. What began as a fatal new plague has become a treatable, if still incurable, chronic illness. That change counts as a triumph by any measure, but it also poses an unusually difficult question for the next 30 years: How many people do we want to save from a death by AIDS — and who’s going to pay for it?

The Heroic Story of How Congress First Confronted AIDS
The Atlantic, Joshua Green, 8 June 2011
Members of Congress have not distinguished themselves these past few days, and an unfortunate result has been to draw attention away from the 30th anniversary of the first published report of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (6/5/81). I'd like to... [remind] readers that Congress can, in fact, do admirable and even heroic things, and that a good example is the story of how some members in the early 1980s forced the government to confront and respond to the AIDS epidemic.

AIDS: A Price Break for Antiretroviral Drugs in 70 of the World’s Poorest Countries
New York Times, Donald G. McNeil, Jr., 23 May 2011
In a development that could improve AIDS treatment worldwide, modern antiretroviral drugs will be sold at lower prices in 70 of the world’s poorest countries. The most important price breaks, announced last week, were for first-line treatments containing the drugs tenofovir and efavirenz, and second-line regimens containing atazanavir and ritonavir. Cocktails of AIDS drugs that once sold for $12,000 or more per year in rich nations are now available in poor ones for less than $200.

Southern Sudan

The birth of the world’s newest country is only three-and-a-half weeks away (scheduled for July 9). But the celebration of South Sudan’s independence continues to be marred by violence in oil-rich areas that both North Sudan and South Sudan claim as their land.

World Vision and other organizations are working in South Sudan to care for those who are part of the population movement into the South. Many of these organizations are speaking out against the violence and calling for civilians to be protected and the dispute to be handled peacefully.

Thousands flee violence in Abyei - UN
Reuters via AlertNet, Ulf Laessing, 24 May 2011
More than 20,000 people have fled Sudan's Abyei region to Agok in the south after the northern army seized the disputed area, United Nations officials said on Tuesday. North Sudan's army moved tanks into the main town of the oil-producing border region after weeks of tensions, leading to looting and burning by armed groups that forced residents to flee, U.N. officials said. South Sudan said the seizure of Abyei was a ploy by Khartoum to provoke war and derail secession by the oil-rich south, due in July.

Doctors Without Borders Treating Wounded in Sudan Conflict
Voice of America, Cathy Majtenyi, 23 May 2011
The medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders says it is continuing to follow people on the move from violence in Abyei, an area claimed by both north and South Sudan. This follows an intense battle two days ago in which northern government troops seized the area. The United Nations has demanded that the north remove its troops from Abyei immediately. Residents of Agok, a village 40 kilometers south of Abyei, are moving further south to a place called Turalei, because of fears of further violence.

World Vision hopes for peaceful transition in Sudan
World Vision, (press release), 9 June 2011
With one month to go before South Sudan becomes the world’s newest independent nation, World Vision is hopeful that military clashes that have forced thousands of people to flee can be brought to an end to avert a larger humanitarian crisis. More than 70,000 people have been displaced in the Abyei region following heavy fighting between the North’s Sudan Armed Forces and Sudan People’s Liberation Army of the South. Clashes have included attacks on United Nations (UN) peacekeepers, and the UN is calling on all sides to allow humanitarian aid to reach the area.

Child and maternal health

I’ll admit it: This was a bit of a selfish selection on my part. I’ve found that my interest in issues related to protecting mothers and their children from preventable threats -- like malnutrition, dehydration, respiratory infections, and malaria -- has become very acute and much more emotional as I near the end of my own pregnancy.

Charity pulls smart stunt on Bruni pregnancy rumor
Photos: Wall Street Journal
Reuters, Geert De Clercq, 26 May 2011
"These are simple items that any woman in Europe or North America can get at the drug store but are inaccessible for many women in the developing world," Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz of Britain's World Vision charity told Reuters. Ryerson-Cruz said her charity fights to try to make sure that all the world's children have the same chance of survival that the French 'First Baby' would have.

Countries pledge $4.3 billion in funding for child vaccines
BBC.com, Michelle Roberts, 13 June 2011
Countries have pledged an unprecedented $4.3bn (£2.6bn) to help vaccinate children against preventable diseases like pneumonia. The Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization says this funding milestone will save more than four million lives in the next four years. The donations exceeded expectations -- GAVI asked for $3.7bn.

Twelve women per month died giving birth in Sierra Leone hospital
Agence France Presse via Google News, 17 May 2011
Twelve women died every month giving birth in a Freetown hospital in 2010, in a country with one of the world's worst maternal mortality rates, a government study showed Tuesday. Akim Gibril, chairman of an 11-person committee set up to probe challenges at the Princess Christian maternity hospital in Freetown, said the figure was "unacceptable." "Unless the unfortunate shortcomings including poor post-delivery conditions are urgently addressed, the situation will continue to be the same for 2011," said Gibril, as he handed the report to the country's health minister Hawa Bangura.

Afghan health minister seeks backing for vaccines
Reuters, Stephanie Nebehay, 18 May 2011
Afghanistan's acting health minister will seek international funding on Tuesday for immunization, which she sees as key to reducing child mortality in a country where the average life expectancy is only 48 years. Dr. Suraya Dalil, in an interview with Reuters in Geneva before holding talks with Bill Gates at the World Health Organization (WHO), recalled her own cousin in Kabul dying more than 30 years ago as a young boy from measles. "We will ask for support in areas that are working, that are relevant, successful programs in Afghanistan, for example immunization," Dalil said. "As a mother of 3 children, I know the value of immunization. I lost my cousin from measles. I don't want my children to ask me the same question as I asked my Mom: 'why?'"

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