Also In Global Health News: HIV/AIDS In Indonesia; Mobile Phone Application For Malaria; Film Festival; Results-Based Financing; Role Of Civil Society, Private Sector In Fighting HIV/AIDS

Reuters Examines Growing HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Indonesia

Reuters examines the growing number of HIV/AIDS cases in Indonesia, where “widespread ignorance” about the disease and a government afraid of campaigning “effectively against it for fear of being accused by conservatives of promoting promiscuity” have helped fuel the epidemic. Currently, 300,000 Indonesians are HIV-positive, and though the nation’s HIV prevalence is low at 0.2 percent, “the government and health experts are worried because the number of newly confirmed cases has more than doubled to 4,158 in the five years to 2010.” While other countries in the region are implementing high-profile prevention campaigns promoting condom use and needle-exchange programs, “such high-profile interventions cannot be adopted in conservative Indonesia,” which is majority Muslim, Reuters reports (Lyn/Wulandari, 4/12). A factbox containing statistics on Indonesia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is also available from Reuters (Lyn, 4/12).

Smartphone Application Can Diagnose Malaria, Detect Disease Trends

A team of graduate students has designed a smartphone application to diagnose malaria, the Seattle Times’ “Microsoft Pri0” blog reports. Team LifeLens, including students from the University California, Los Angeles; University of California, Davis; Harvard University; and University of Central Florida, competed in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2011 national finals, which helps encourage students to create useful software (Chan, 4/11). The application, which aims to help health workers diagnose the disease in remote areas, will “hopefully help in the fight against most diseases out there and make everybody’s life a little easier,” said Tristan Gibeau, a UCF graduate computer engineering student, Reuters reports. “Gibeau said the software application can take a picture of a blood sample, process the data to detect malaria parasites, quantify how much malaria is in the sample and point the parasites out to the phone user. … once the data stored in the phone is uploaded, it can be used to spot disease trends, Gibeau said,” the news service reports (Liston, 4/8). Another team from University of Houston, “built a strategy game to get food and supplies to a village after a natural disaster,” the Seattle Times’ “Microsoft Pri0” blog adds (4/11).

Film Festival Focuses On Poverty, Hunger MDG

Inter Press Service reports on a recent film festival that is a joint program of the U.N. Department of Public Information and the Independent Filmmaker Project. “This year’s theme was eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, one of eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved by 2015,” IPS writes (Whitman, 4/11). The focus on poverty and hunger is especially timely as the deadline for the MDGs approaches, according to Kiyo Akasaka, under-secretary-general for communications and public information, U.N. News Centre writes. “We must redouble our efforts to bring the crisis facing so much of the world’s population into the public eye,” Akasaka said, adding, “Documentarians, who present complex issues to filmgoers in ways that engage the heart and mind alike, are crucial allies in that effort” (4/8). “Evocative and richly detailed, the films highlighted certain qualities in each individual they portrayed, be they dignity, intelligence, humour, or determination. … In addition to the films, the programme featured panels of experts discussing topics from the use of documentary filmmaking to food security to the role of women in combating hunger and poverty,” IPS reports (4/11).

Health Experts Explore Potential Benefits, Pitfalls Of Results-Based Financing

BMJ News reports on a recent meeting where policymakers, academics, and donors – such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI Alliance) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria – gathered to discuss the benefits and pitfalls of “results-based financing,” a system in which donors pay for programs “where the results can be precisely measured.” Health officials have cautioned that “[r]esults-based financing may not be appropriate in countries that lack the capacity to gather reliable statistics,” and programs must be sure to take into consideration that a focus on results does not lead groups to only focus on populations easiest to reach or interventions easiest to measure, the publication writes (Hurley, 4/8).

U.N. Officials Praise Role Of Non-Governmental Groups In Fight Against HIV/AIDS

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. General Assembly President Joseph Deiss last week during a meeting of civil society and private sector groups ahead of the June High-Level Meeting on AIDS praised the role played by non-governmental groups in the response to HIV/AIDS, U.N. News Centre reports. “The engagement of civil society and the private sector is indispensable in holding governments accountable, in ensuring that the AIDS response respects human rights, and in advocating for the creation of legal and social environments that protect people from infection and support social justice,” Deiss said at the opening of the meeting (4/8). “You organized and rallied and worked until governments – and multilateral organizations like the United Nations – changed the way we do business. In the process, you blazed a new trail for global cooperation on the Millennium Development Goals, and threats like maternal and child mortality,” Ban said, according to a transcript from the meeting. Ban also used the address to reiterate the goals outlined in his recent report on the global response to HIV/AIDS. “I am not only asking you to act – I am pledging to take action myself. I will continue to personally urge government officials to bring us closer to our ultimate goals: no new infections, no stigma or discrimination, and no AIDS-related deaths,” he said (4/8).

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