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Also In Global Health News: Kenya Votes On Constitution; Global Wheat Prices Soar; HIV And TB In China; Female Condoms In India; Malaria Centers Receive Funding

As Kenya Votes For Constitution, Abortion And HIV Rights Issues Remain

Kenyans “voted peacefully” Wednesday on a constitution that most were “expected to vote in favour” of, according to surveys, Reuters reports (8/4). Kenyan officials have supported the constitution but, VOA News reports, “issues of abortion, land, and Islamic courts” have stirred controversy over the draft. “While relatively short, a single clause on abortion included in the proposed constitution has also split Kenya along religious lines. The clause prohibits abortion in Kenya ‘unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is a need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger'” (Onyiengo, 8/3).

Human rights organizations say that the constitution does not “directly address the rights of people living with HIV, according to Jacinta Nyachae, the executive director of the AIDS Law Project,” Inter Press Service reports. Some groups are lobbying for an AIDS tribunal that would allow people to report HIV-related violations. The article cites a recent report by the Human Rights Count that found 82.7 percent of people living with HIV in Kenya face abuses “ranging from loss of life, denial of social security as well was health care” (Njagi, 8/3).

Global Wheat Prices Soar After Drought In Russia

Global prices for wheat “have soared by more than 50 percent since the end of June after the worst drought in 130 years ravaged crops in Russia, which is one of the world’s biggest exporters of the grain,” the Daily Mail reports (8/4). According to the Wall Street Journal, the country has cut the estimate for its 2010 grain output to 70-75 million metric tons, down from 90 million tons (Roth/Maudlin, 8/4).

The New York Times “Green” blog reports that the soaring prices reflect a “two-year high” and that “poor growing weather” has affected the wheat harvest in other countries including Canada and Ukraine (Rudolf, 8/3). An IRIN article notes that “2011 could be a difficult one for wheat-based foods like bread” and quotes a U.N. expert who said “any global hike takes at least six months to get transmitted to the domestic markets” (8/3).

China Lays Out Health Plan For Patients Co-Infected With HIV And TB

China’s Health Ministry has ordered free treatment for “patients co-infected with HIV and [tuberculosis],” according to a circular sent to health authorities across China, Xinhua reports. The circular “said tuberculosis infection had become one of the leading causes of death among people living with HIV” in the country, according to the news service. The ministry also called for HIV/AIDS and TB authorities to allow “cooperation in data sharing and testing” and for HIV/AIDS providers to give at least one TB test annually to their patients, Xinhua writes (8/3).

India Plans To Expand Female Condom Distribution Program

The Times of India reports that within the next few months, India plans to expand its distribution of female condoms (FC) to female sex workers (FSWs) from eight states to 17 in an effort to drive down HIV rates among women. “The nine new states, where FC will be given to FSWs via target intervention groups, are Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,” the newspaper reports. “A decision on a nationwide initiative will be undertaken after reviewing the data of these 17 states,” according to the newspaper. Since 2008, the National Aids Control Organization (NACO) has distributed an estimated 1.5 million female condoms, the Times of India reports (Sinha, 8/3).

International Malaria Centers Receive $106M In Funding reports that the International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR), “a seven-year initiative that has established a collaborative network with local institutions in areas including parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Islands,” has received $106 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to fund ten new centers. The article includes comments from Malla Rao, ICEMR’s program director, who told that the regional differences in the selected sites will “help inform local policy” as well as allow researchers to benefit from the “expertise and experience” of the other centers (Aguilar, 8/3).

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