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Also In Global Health News: TB, HIV Drug Shortages In Zambia; HIV Drug Development; Water Access In Angloa; Online Disease Tracking System; AIDS Deaths Fall In South Africa

IRIN/PlusNews Examines TB, HIV Drug Shortages In Zambia

IRIN/PlusNews reports on the severe HIV and tuberculosis drug stock-outs and rationing that has occurred in Zambia, which lost its funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria late last year. Lynn Tamba, TB program officer at the Christian Health Association of Zambia, which provides treatment for both HIV/AIDS and TB, said the shortages are a “crisis,” and noted that her organization had exhausted its sources for the medicines two months into the stock-out. According to IRIN/PlusNews, stock-outs eased early this year, but at least 14 deaths have been directly linked to TB drug shortages, according to information from the Treatment Action Literacy Campaign. The article examines how partner organizations in the country are now working together since the corruption was exposed and the health ministry has been excluded from a consortium of partners that procures HIV and TB drugs (3/14).

Bloomberg Reports On Challenges Of Bringing New HIV Drugs To Market

“Three decades after the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, there are 31 drugs on the market that have helped turn HIV from a death sentence into a manageable disease in the developed world. Only six were approved after 2004,” Bloomberg reports in an article examining the challenges drug developers face in bringing new HIV drugs to market. The article describes how higher standards for new antiretroviral drugs, longer clinical trials, and fewer available clinical trial participants are combining to slow drug development and fuel experts’ concerns that “millions of HIV patients face the possibility of the virus becoming fatal again if it shifts shape inside cells to outsmart existing therapies,” according to the news service (Cortez, 3/14).

Mail & Guardian Examines Clean Water Access In Angola

The Mail & Guardian examines access to clean water in Angola, the country with the most rainfall in the Southern African region. Though it “has twice as much available water per capita as Zambia or Mozambique and an estimated 10 times more than South Africa, according to the United Nations,” statistics from the Angolan government show that “only 42% of Angola’s 17 million citizens have access to clean water and just less than 60% to appropriate sanitation,” the newspaper writes. The article looks at how the country’s 27-year conflict affected access to water, the government’s recent efforts to expand access to clean water and local residents’ views about water access (Redvers, 3/14).

Open-Access Web Program Aims To Track Real-Time Disease Information

CMAJ News reports on a “web-based, open-access system called HealthMap.org/predict that proponents hope will provide real-time intelligence about emerging pathogens.” According to the news service, “it involves the collection of online data from thousands of sources, including stories from news aggregators like Google News, reports from international health agencies, personal accounts and the musings of online discussion groups.” The EcoHealth Alliance, Global Viral Forecasting Inc., the Smithsonian Institution, the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Wildlife Conservation Society are using the system, which was created in 2009 by USAID’s Emerging Pandemics Threats Program. “The real focus is identifying and focusing surveillance in hotspots around the world where we have potential for risk of a new disease that potentially might cause a pandemic worldwide,” said John Brownstein, HealthMap.org’s cofounder and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (3/11).

AIDS Deaths In South Africa Decline, Actuarial Model Says

The number of AIDS-related deaths in South Africa has fallen by almost 25 percent in the last six years, according to research from the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA), Agence France-Presse reports. ASSA’s model “estimates that AIDS deaths fell from 257,000 six years ago to 194,000 last year,” the news service notes. “Their latest research estimates 10.9 percent of South Africans – 5.5 million people – were HIV-positive last year. From 2005 to 2010, infections among 15 to 24 year olds dropped 1.5 percent, but rose among 15 to 49 year olds by 0.6 percent, partly due to adults living longer due to anti-AIDS drugs,” according to AFP. In a statement (.pdf), ASSA said, “The rapid expansion of South Africa’s antiretroviral programme appears to have slowed down the AIDS mortality rate in recent years” (3/11).

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