Also In Global Health News: Political Uprisings Could Help Arab Women; Parents Of HIV-Positive Libyan Children Speak; Scientific Commission For Global Food Security; Laura Bush On Foreign Aid Cuts; FDA Approves HIV/AIDS Drug For Kids

Political Uprisings in North Africa Could Help Women Gain Political, Economic Rights

Bloomberg News/Boston Globe examines how the recent political uprisings in Egypt and neighboring countries could lead to new opportunities for women in the region. The article describes the challenges Arab women in the countries face, as documented in a 2009 U.N. Arab Human Development Report, and the efforts underway to advance women’s economic and political rights. “It is a great opportunity,” Michelle Bachelet, head of U.N. Women, said of the protests in the region, adding, “This is a very important moment in which the momentum won’t be lost” (Varner, 3/13).

Parents Of Children Infected With HIV At Libyan Hospital Begin To Speak Out

Newsweek reports on how after 13 years of being forced into silence by the Libyan government, parents are beginning to speak out about the hundreds of children who became infected with HIV/AIDS at Al Fateh pediatric hospital in Benghazi, Libya. “Although the cause of the outbreak remains a mystery, outside studies implicate poor hygiene at the hospital rather than any of the conspiracy theories that abound in Libya,” according to the magazine.

“[T]he government blamed the outbreak on five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor at the hospital, falsely accusing them of deliberately infecting their young patients, and sentencing them to death. The medics were finally released in 2007, but not before the regime had extorted an Eastern European debt-forgiveness package and roughly three quarters of a billion dollars in supposed compensation and health-care assistance,” the magazine notes. “The ransom Gaddafi received for freeing them enabled him to pay the victims’ families roughly $1 million each, helping him to buy a little more silence.” The article includes comments from a former patient as well as several parents whose children contracted HIV at the hospital (Elkin, 3/13).

New Group Provides Forum For Scientists To Address Food Security Issues, Climate Change

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, which will bring together natural and social scientists from six continents in an effort to create policy recommendations for adapting global agriculture in the face of climate change, launched on Friday, Dow Jones Newswires/Wall Street Journal reports. The group aims to “succeed where politicians have failed by creating an international consensus on how to feed the world in the face of climate change” (Henshaw, 3/10). “There is a rich body of scientific evidence for sustainable agriculture approaches that can increase production of food, fibre and fuel, help decrease poverty and benefit the environment, but agreement is needed on how best to put these approaches into action at scale,” according to a press release (.pdf) from the commission. “Evidence also shows that climate change, with population growth and pressures on natural resources, is set to produce food shortages and biodiversity loss worldwide unless action is taken now” (3/11).

Laura Bush Calls On Republicans Not To Cut Foreign Aid Programs

During a Bloomberg television interview over the weekend, former First Lady Laura Bush “admonished congressional Republicans against slashing key foreign aid programs in their thirst for spending cuts,” The Hill’s “Blog Briefing Room” reports. “I would try to get in touch with some [House Republicans] and tell them that I think it’s really important and that it’s worth the 1 percent of the budget that it is,” Bush said. “It’s worth it because of our own moral interest to be generous and to help other people, but it’s also worth it both for our national security and for economic interests,” she said (O’Brien, 3/11). Meanwhile, the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas said Bush has no plans to lobby members of Congress, according to Bloomberg News. She appeared on Bloomberg TV’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff” (Gaouette, 3/10).

Generic Drug Maker Receives FDA, PEPFAR Approval For Drug To Treat HIV-Positive Children

The generic drug maker Mylan Inc. on Thursday announced it has received final approval from the FDA under PEPFAR for a new formulation of the antiretroviral drug zidovudine that is specifically meant to treat children with HIV/AIDS, RTT News reports (3/10).  The drug is a “first-of-its-kind” water-dispersible tablet that can also be used to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the Pittsburgh Business Times reports (Mamula, 3/10). “It will be made available for purchase outside the U.S. in certain developing countries,” the Associated Press/Canadian Business Online reports (3/10). “The FDA’s approval under PEPFAR means that Matrix’s product meets all of the agency’s manufacturing quality, safety and efficacy standards. The water-dispersible tablet is unique because it can be dispersed in water for all patients, adults or children, who are unable to swallow tablets,” according to a Mylan press release (3/10).

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