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Also In Global Health News: Drought In Thailand; $2M To Trinidad And Tobago For HIV; Cultural Debate In Uganda HIV Prevention; Infectious Disease And IQ

FAO Predicts Drought Will Greatly Reduce Thailand’s Rice Export

“Rice production in Thailand, the largest exporter of the grain, may drop to the lowest in eight years as drought and the spread of plant hoppers damage crops, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization,” Bloomberg reports (Suwannakij, 6/29). “For Thailand, which accounts for about one-third of global rice exports, analysts are provisionally predicting a drop of at least one million tons,” Asia Times Online reports. “On June 4, Thai officials declared 53 provinces as disaster areas because of severe water shortages. The Ministry of Interior’s disaster prevention and mitigation department said nearly 6.5 million people had been adversely impacted by drought,” the news service writes (McCartan, 7/2).

Trinidad And Tobago Gain $2M In PEPFAR Support

Trinidad and Tobago entered a five-year partnership with the United States that will aim to improve “HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes and will improve the mortality and morbidity status of persons living with HIV and those at high risk of the disease,” the island’s Guardian reports. The program, which received $2 million in funding from PEPFAR for the first year, will also include laboratory strengthening, strategic information and capacity-building, according to the paper. Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis said her ministry “aims to reduce the estimated number of newly-diagnosed HIV infections by 25 percent by 2013” (Llanos, 7/1).

IRIN/PlusNews Examines Role Of Culture In HIV Prevention In Uganda 

IRIN/PlusNews examines HIV prevention strategies in Uganda in relation to the “debate about whether ‘multiple concurrent partnerships’ are indeed one of the forces behind Africa’s epidemic.” Sylvia Tamale of Uganda’s Makerere University said that “insensitive approaches that call for the elimination of cultural and sexual practices will not yield significant results.” She added that such approaches have become “the main resource of public health advocates and policy-makers, resulting in two decades of muddled approaches to HIV prevention in Africa with minimal success.” The article also includes comment from James Kigozi, spokesman for the Uganda AIDS commission, who argued “we are not shy in any way about telling people to abandon cultural practices that put them in danger of HIV. … A changing epidemic needs changing initiatives,” and from advocate Daudi Ochieng who is trying to balance the two sides by promoting condom use (6/30).

New Study Hypothesizes Link Between Infectious Disease and IQ

Science examines a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in which researchers propose a hypothesis that “low IQ is tied to the toll of infectious diseases.” Researchers examined a number of factors, including infectious disease burden, temperature, gross domestic product per capita and education, in correlation to average national IQ and “found that infectious disease burden was more closely correlated to average IQ than the other variables,” according to the article. The scientists theorize that because children who contract parasites “devote more energy to fighting off infection,” they “have less energy available for brain development.” Researcher Christopher Eppig points out that his study can’t rule out other factors that may result in a country’s lower average IQ: “I would never say that parasites are the only thing affecting the global diversity of intelligence” (Willyard, 6/29).

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