Also In Global Health News: HIV/AIDS In Ukraine; Implementing WHO HIV/AIDS Guidelines; Interview With World Bank HIV/AIDS Chief; Biotechnology For Food Security

Heterosexual Transmission Driving Ukraine’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Heterosexual transmission has “overtaken drug abuse as the main cause of AIDS” in Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reports. “In 2009, 43 percent of Ukrainians infected with HIV caught the virus through heterosexual sex and 35 percent by drug injection,” AFP writes, referencing a national report (.pdf) put together by the Ukrainian ministry of health for UNAIDS. The article notes several challenges to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in the country and recent progress made in reducing the country’s AIDS mortality rate, which experts attribute to an increase use of antiretroviral therapy in the country. “But funds are limited and at least 7,500 patients who need the drugs are not receiving them,” according to the news service, which adds, the country “has already received 230 million dollars from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the years 2004-2012 and will this month put in a new request with the organisation for estimated 300 million dollars for 2012-2017” (Tsukanova, 7/11).

Malawi, Zimbabwe May Struggle To Implement WHO HIV/AIDS Treatment Guidelines

Inter Press Service examines the growing concern among HIV/AIDS advocates that the Malawian government’s adoption of the WHO’s updated HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines will lead to a decrease in the number of HIV-positive patients with access to free treatment. Malawi “has been procuring the first line of the HIV course of therapy … at about 33 dollars but the new drugs will cost the government 100 dollars per month for every person, according to [Mary Shawa,] Principal Secretary for HIV and AIDS in the office of the president and cabinet,” the news service writes. “Currently the Malawi government provides free anti-retroviral drugs to about 250,000 people. There are up to one million people living with HIV and the HIV prevalence rate is at 12 percent, according to the Ministry of Health,” IPS adds (Ngozo, 7/10).

In related news, Agence France-Presse reports that Zimbabwe “may not have enough anti-AIDS drugs to comply with [WHO] recommendations on providing treatment to people with HIV. … ‘The number of people in need of treatment will double if we follow the World Health Organisation plan,’ Tsitsi Mutasa Apollo, co-ordinator of HIV treatment in the health ministry, said” in a state-run newspaper on Sunday.” According to Zimbabwean publication, “The new guidelines would mean about 500,000 people need treatment,” AFP adds (7/11).

World Bank HIV/AIDS Chief Discusses Prevention With VOA News

VOA News features a conversation with David Wilson, who on Thursday was named the World Bank’s new Global HIV/AIDS Program Director. In the article, Wilson addresses the need for sustained attention to be paid toward lowering rates of HIV infections. He said a major challenge is “making prevention work,” which is “the challenge we faced 30 years ago.” Wilson discussed “some really exciting prevention developments in Southern Africa,” including male circumcision, as well as safer sex programs, focus on behavior change, the upcoming International AIDS Conference and HIV funding, which he called “either flat or trending towards flat” (DeCapua, 7/9).

Experts Advocate Biotechnology To Improve Food Security

“[N]ew research shows that food security can be improved by biotechnology and adapting traditional farming techniques, experts say,” IRIN reports. The article notes research by a University of Queensland lecturer showing a gene that protects plants from pathogens. “In a situation where pathogens are not a threat to crops, removing this gene will speed up crop growth. This could be beneficial in parts of the world that are experiencing shorter harvest periods because of changing weather patterns,” he said. The article also examines modified rice growing methods and efforts to reduce cyanide levels in crops (7/9).

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